MARTIN KEOWN's north London derby combined XI: who starts up front?

MARTIN KEOWN’s north London derby combined XI: Lloris in goal, Arsenal dominating defence and in-form Odegaard the pick of the midfielders… but does Harry Kane or Gabriel Jesus start up front?

  • Arsenal face Tottenham in Saturday’s lunchtime kick off at the Emirates Stadium
  • The Gunners go into the clash sitting on top of the league after six wins in seven
  • Tottenham are on their coat tails after starting season in equally assured fashion 

There was a noisy reaction to my last North London Derby XI when these teams last met in a defining fixture in May — and believe me, no one was louder than my talkSPORT colleague Simon Jordan!

That’s because I didn’t name a single Tottenham player.

I explained that as an Arsenal man I didn’t want to take anything away from my team.

I didn’t want to hamper any of the players’ confidence ahead of such a huge clash.

But Mikel Arteta’s players have grown in stature since that 3-0 defeat last season. They’re full of belief and top of the table. So here, I’ve gone through it position by position to see who I would name if these two teams merged.

Mikel Arteta’s side have grown in stature since their 3-0 humbling at the hands of Tottenham in May of this year

Goalkeeper and back line

Hugo Lloris is France’s No 1 and captained them to World Cup glory in 2018. As much as Aaron Ramsdale is improving, I’ve opted for Lloris.

With Arteta and Antonio Conte employing different formations, I had a decision to make on whether to use a back four or back three. I always preferred playing in a four and my centre back partnership is all Arsenal — Gabriel and William Saliba. 

These two are quietly turning into a formidable partnership with their physicality and assurance. At left back I’ve named Oleksandr Zinchenko, who has put in stellar performances since signing from Manchester City last summer. At right back it’s Emerson, who’s started six of Tottenham’s seven league games this campaign.

Hugo Lloris pips Aaron Ramsdale to the no.1 jersey of the combined north London XI

Gabriel and William Saliba have begun to form an imperious partnership at the back for Arsenal


My midfield belongs to Tottenham — Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. These two do such an underrated job for Conte in the engine room and have gelled brilliantly.

Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg secure the midfield spots through their impressive form so far this season


On the right is Bukayo Saka, who pips Spurs’ Dejan Kulusevski. Playing off the front, we have the creative Martin Odegaard. 

He’s stepped up a level since being made captain, embracing the responsibility. 

On the left is Son Heung-min, who responded to being left on the bench by Conte against Leicester by coming on and scoring a 13-minute hat-trick. There was no feeling sorry for himself.

Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard have proved the beating heart of Arsenal’s team this year


This was the hardest decision and, in the end, I simply couldn’t separate Harry Kane and Gabriel Jesus. 

Kane is the top scorer in north London derbies with 13 goals in 15 games.

But Jesus has been so instrumental in Arsenal going from also-rans to the top of the table. So as their fantasy boss, I’m giving them 45 minutes each!

Unable to split Gabriel Jesus and Harry Kane, as their fantasy manager I have opted for both!


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