Arsenal vs Chelsea – Combined XI Featuring 8 Blues and 3 Gunners
The festive period of Premier League can’t be more exciting when Arsenal and Chelsea – two bitter London rivals, lock horns at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night. The Gunners are fighting for a top-four finish after being knocked out from a Champions League berth last season and despite a troublesome transfer window, Arsene Wenger has revived his squad masterly as his boys are showing resilience week in week out.
They were denied a certain triumph on Sunday evening when Mike Dean’s controversial penalty decision allowed West Brom to clinch a late equaliser at the Hawthorns. The Gunners will be more determined now to come back to winning ways against the defending champions who have struggled against the North London heavyweights in recent meetings. Their last encounter ended in a scoreless draw at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea were down by a man following David Luiz’s sending off.
Arsenal’s win will pile more pressure on 4th-placed Liverpool but the Blues will also feel the urge of securing all three points in order to reclaim the 2nd spot in the league tally. Antonio Conte had a slow start to his title defence but his team has been showing consistency lately and grabbed a thumping 5-0 win against struggling Stoke City to end 2017 on a higher note. An encounter at Emirates against arch-rivals is not going to be an easy outing, but the former Azzurri boss will be desperate to grind out a favourable outcome prior to their League cup semifinal ties later this month.
Arsenal have several major injury absentees for the Chelsea outing whereas both Laurent Koscielny and Mesut Ozil will go through late fitness tests following their injuries. Olivier Giroud, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac and Aaron Ramsey are already ruled out for the electrifying clash. Santi Cazorla continues to miss out following his severe heel injury.
Chelsea do not have significant injury absentees except David Luiz who is yet to return to full training along with Charly Musonda as the youngster is unavailable due to a groin strain.
The Combined XI
Petr Cech (GK)
A tough call probably but the former Chelsea veteran holds more experience of the London derby and is picked over Thibaut Courtois for his influence between the sticks behind an injury-riddled Arsenal backline.
Cesar Azpilicueta (RCB)
The Spaniard, though underrated, is one of the best defenders in the league and is the obvious pick over Calum Chambers.
Andreas Christensen (CB)
The Danish youngster has been a revelation in Chelsea defence this term and the uncertainty regarding Koscielny’s recovery has handed him a slot in the combined XI of these two sides.
Gary Cahill (LCB)
The Chelsea skipper is vastly experienced and his quality, as well as leadership skills combined with current form earns him a place in the lineup ahead of Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi.
Hector Bellerin (RWB)
Bellerin had a nervy inception in this new campaign but improved later on and worked on his defensive work rate. He will be a constant threat down the right flank and despite Victor Moses’ consistency for the Blues, the Spaniard is my selection for these two sides’ combined XI, as he has been defensively solid this season.
N’Golo Kante (CM)
Kante is well ahead of any other central midfielder in the league and is certainly far better than Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka in a similar role. With no disrespect to the Swiss sensation, he is yet to earn the fans’ trust and the Frenchman is an obvious selection for this XI.
Jack Wilshere (CM)
The Englishman slipped down the pecking order last season and was loaned out to Bournemouth. But he never gave up, waited for opportunities this season and has fought back into the starting XI of the Gunners since Aaron Ramsey’s injury. Wilshere was tipped to leave the North Londoners this winter but is expecting a new contract offer now and has already staked a claim in England’s World Cup squad. Wilshere thus deserves to make it to this team ahead of Chelsea’s Tiemoue Bakayoko, Danny Drinkwater and former Gunners midfield sensation Cesc Fabregas.
Marcos Alonso (LWB)
Alonso has been in stupendous form this term, has already bagged a few goals and has impressed with his set-piece skills. Sead Kolasinac is out for the clash due to injury and youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles, though impressive, is certainly not good enough to usurp this in-form Spaniard.
Eden Hazard (LAM)
The Belgian sensation had a close competitor in Alexis Sanchez for a starting slot in the combined XI. Alexis Sanchez has been struggling this season and though he had a good game against Crystal Palace and got himself on the scoresheet against West Brom, many would agree that his overall performances of late have been disappointing. So Hazard is my pick for this position.
The injury to Mesut Ozil sees the Brazilian earn a place in this combined XI. He grabbed a goal from the spot-kick against Stoke City on Saturday afternoon and will trouble a depleted Gunners backline with his cut-ins, tireless runs, and set-piece skills.
Alvaro Morata (ST)
Both Alexandre Lacazette and Alvaro Morata have failed to show consistency but the latter is among the goals. The Arsenal star, although impressive due to his hard work and movements inside the box, has failed to hit the target for quite some time now and so Morata gets the nod here.