Arsenal v Liverpool combined XI: Odegaard is in, but what about Mane?
Martin Odegaard walks into our Arsenal vs Liverpool combined XI while Mo Salah plays on the wing… but who starts at centre back and is there room for Sadio Mane or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang?!
- Arsenal take on Liverpool on Saturday with both sides struggling this season
- The Gunners and the Reds face an uphill task to earn a Champions League spot
- Sportsmail has come up with a combined XI ahead of the clash at the Emirates
It’s the battle of the misfits at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon as Arsenal host fellow strugglers Liverpool in a crucial clash that will have huge ramifications for the rest of the season.
Both sides still have hopes of claiming a top four spot – a challenge that appears much more uphill for the Gunners than Jurgen Klopp’s side – but the winners of this contest can thrust themselves back into contention for next season’s Champions League competition.
Arsenal and Liverpool have each suffered from iffy form of late – with the Reds arresting an alarming slump by edging to a 1-0 win over Wolves last time, while Mikel Arteta’s men continue to blow hot and cold as they were held to a 3-3 draw against West Ham.
Saturday’s game should be an eye opener and a fascinating affair to see who is best equipped to turn things around and get their season back on track – but which players would get in a combined XI of both sides?
Sportsmail has made the big calls, including an important decision at centre-back, midfield options and who gets the nod up front.
Mikel Arteta (R) and Jurgen Klopp (L) square off in a huge clash between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday
This is a tough one because before this season you wouldn’t have hesitated in backing the Brazilian, and you’d also agree he was up there with the best keepers in world football.
No one has really showered themselves in glory for Liverpool this season, and Alisson’s displays have suffered as a result of the overall team dip. He hasn’t been outstanding, and when comparing his stats with Arsenal’s Leno, the German actually has a slight edge.
Leno has kept two more clean sheets than Alisson (8) and has made more saves (69 to Alisson’s 55), while the Liverpool man has conceded fewer (26 to Leno’s 31).
But neither are in top form, so we have to base this on overall quality. It shouldn’t be forgotten either than Leno made a pretty bad clanger against Olympiakos, playing an ill-advised pass to Dani Ceballos that cost a goal, and his distribution was also costly in the 1-1 draw at Wolves.
Alisson gets the nod in goal despite an under-par season, with Leno not inspiring much either
Another player who has been brought down to earth this season and who has lost his place in the England squad as a result. But is there a better option elsewhere?
Hector Bellerin has been out of sorts for Arsenal and was dropped by Arteta for the last four league games – last playing in February. It’s forced the Spaniard to field Calum Chambers in that position instead.
So while Trent-Arnold’s performances have taken a nosedive, he still gets the nod at right back – and we know the quality he has on his day. He still has a chance of making England’s Euro squad and we’ve seen glimpses of his best ability throughout the season – just not enough of it.
Trent-Arnold hasn’t shown the best of his ability either, but is the best option at right-back
Often bears the brunt of criticism from Arsenal fans, but is one of the most experienced heads from either side given Liverpool’s injury nightmare in defence – making these two spots a really difficult choice – and would be needed to hold the back four together.
With no Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip or Joe Gomez available, Luiz gets the nod over Nat Phillips, who has stepped up for Klopp in recent games but just doesn’t have the know-how in the top flight.
Luiz has started the last four Premier League games in a row and looks to be turning a corner somewhat, playing his part in wins over Leicester and Tottenham, although he was part of the defence that let in three goals against West Ham.
Arsenal’s David Luiz is the most experienced defender out of the centre-backs available
Brought to the club to fix their injury crisis having joined on loan – he’s not exactly the second coming of van Dijk and has looked shaky at times, but also appears to be steadily improving week by week.
He had a debut to forget in the 3-1 loss against Leicester City but is slowly making amends and helped Liverpool keep two clean sheets against Leipzig in the Champions League knockouts, as well as in wins against Sheffield United and Wolves last time out.
We shouldn’t expect too much of him after coming into a fragile team and forging a partnership with the inexperienced Phillips, but having him in defence prevents turning Reds midfielder in a makeshift centre-back.
It’s been a difficult start at Anfield for Ozan Kabak, but he looks to be improving week by week
A straight scrap between the Scots – Robertson or Tierney?
You could certainly make a case for Tierney, who’s overcome an injury-hit career at Arsenal and has played well of late. He’s started 22 games in the Premier League and has two assists.
Scotland boss Steve Clarke clearly can’t choose between the two of them either – playing Tierney at left back and Robertson on the left wing in their last three World Cup qualifiers – with the former outshining the Liverpool man with a hat-trick of assists in the 4-0 win over the Faroe Islands.
Just like Trent-Arnold, Robertson has gone from menacing world beater to underachiever this term, but still has five assists in the Premier League and always provides a threat on the left flank – so he edges Tierney.
Take your pick between Robertson and Kieran Tierney, but the former still has bags of quality
You have to feel for the Brazilian, we haven’t seen the best from him after being forced to play at centre-back for long spells this season to cover at centre-half, when we know how much he brings to the midfield.
Thankfully, he has been restored to his normal position of late with Kazan and Phillips holding fort at the back, and his presence has really been felt as Liverpool overcame both Leipzig and Wolves back to back.
Fabinho was an integral part of Liverpool’s title-winning team and deserves credit for making a sacrifice to help the team out during swathes of the campaign – when he is on the pitch, they’re simply a better team.
Fabinho deserves credit for sacrificing himself for the cause while maintaining his displays
Linked with an exit to Barcelona this season but appears to be someone Jurgen Klopp can really count on, and he still retains the trust of Frank de Boer for Holland after starting their last three games over the international break.
The Dutchman has scored two goals for the Reds and hasn’t pulled up any trees this season, but earns inclusion thanks to his tireless displays in Liverpool’s engine room.
Thiago Alcantara has undoubted quality but is yet to really sparkle for Liverpool since his move from Bayern and is injury prone too. Emile Smith Rowe might have been in contention but he’s a big doubt for Saturday’s showdown.
Giorginio Wijnaldum is still a trusted player for Klopp and provides a boost in the engine room
The man of the moment – Arsenal’s nimble new Norwegian is earning rave reviews for his displays for the Gunners since joining on loan from Real Madrid, so much so that most fans are desperate for the deal to become permanent.
That might be tricky with reports Madrid could slap a £50m price tag on their attacking midfielder, and a host of rivals may soon join the race for his signature. But for now, Mikel Arteta can make the most of his talents and his vision can play a big role in helping Arsenal finish as high as possible.
He’s scored two goals during his time at the Emirates, with his first Premier League strike coming in the north London derby against Spurs. His creativity and vision has given an edge to Arsenal’s midfield and he’ll be a big miss should his stay not continue beyond the season.
Martin Odegaard has given Arsenal an edge with his creativity and vision since joining on loan
Rumours of a summer exit and difficult contract talks with Liverpool haven’t aided Salah’s cause this season, but that hasn’t stopped him producing 17 goals to make him the joint-top scorer alongside Harry Kane.
He might not be the same Salah that blitzed the Reds to their first title in 30 years last season, but he remains a huge danger for any team and is often the man for the big occasion, and Klopp will need him in this game.
Salah has had poor spells recently, failing to score in the league in his last five games, but he makes the line-up over Willian, despite the Brazilian’s resurgence, and Bukayo Saka.
We haven’t seen the best of Salah this term, but that hasn’t stopped him being joint top scorer
Signing the Portuguese star looks less and less like the transfer misfire that it was first thought to be after the Reds parted with £40m for his signature last summer.
Jota has more than proven his worth for Klopp with some inspired displays to bail Liverpool out of trouble on a handful of occasions, with ten goals scored in all competitions.
He’s in form too – netting three goals in two games for Portugal over the break to back up his winning goal against Wolves beforehand. Meanwhile, Sadio Mane continues to disappoint. Even though he performed well at Molineux and assisted Jota, he hasn’t scored in the league since the 3-1 win at Spurs in late January.
Diogo Jota has bailed Liverpool out of trouble on many occasions and edges out Sadio Mane
The Frenchman’s recent form has ensured he is no longer second-fiddle to Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang, who misses out thanks to Lacazette’s inspiring run of three goals in his last four.
Lacazette has been linked with a move abroad this summer but he’s doing the business on the pitch – netting 13 times in all competitions, including an important goal to help overcome Spurs in the derby while he also helped inspire their comeback against the Hammers.
He’s outscored captain Aubemayang in the Premier League, with the Gabon forward out of sorts this term and unable to provide a spark. The resurgence of Lacazette has forced Arteta to play him up front, and field Aubemayang on the wing.
Alexandre Lacazette is in impressive form for Arsenal and has forced Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out wide recently
Our combined XI uses a 4-3-3 formation and sees Alexandre Lacazette leading the line, supported by Diogo Jota, while David Luiz and Ozan Kabak partner up in central defence
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