The north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur is possibly the most exciting fixture in English football, and over the years it has allowed some of the biggest stars of the game to flourish on its stage.
The two teams are currently struggling to emulate the successes of the past, but the fact they’re not competing for the biggest trophies on offer does not make this contest any less appealing.
There is certainly no shortage drama when it comes to rivalry, and there are still some genuine superstars on display. But which club would boast the most players in a current combined starting lineup?
Well, 90min asked Gunners legend Paul Merson and Spurs favourite Jamie O’Hara to put aside their differences ahead of the big derby on Sunday 26 September and select the best player in each position, building the ultimate north London XI.
So here it is! Merson and O’Hara’s combined XI for the north London derby for 90min’s Rivals series.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Hugo Lloris (GK)
Merson: “He’s a World Cup winner. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves sometimes. I think he’s very underrated and they don’t talk about him like Ederson or Alisson, but for me he’s a top goalkeeper and he makes big saves.”
Japhet Tanganga (RB)
Merson: “They were still untangling him [Tanganga] from when Adama Traore had a go at him the other week at Molineux! I think Cedric is better going forward, but I need defenders at Arsenal at the moment, not people who are bombing forward.”
Ben White (CB)
O’Hara: “Ben White, they paid £50m for him, but I like him, I think he’s going to be something special. He’s great on the ball – I think he’s got to work on his leadership and his heading ability.”
Davinson Sanchez (CB)
Merson: “I think Sanchez tries to win the ball too quickly, he’s too eager, but if I wanted to be marked by someone, I’d rather be marked by Gabriel. Sanchez has got the pace to get back again if you do beat him.”
Kieran Tierney (LB)
Merson: “I like Tierney, the problem is he’s becoming a bit of a school captain – he’s trying to do everything. He’s caught in between stopping the cross or getting back into position. But he is one of the main players for Arsenal, and if he can’t get in the team, I’m struggling.”
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (CM)
Merson: “I have to give you Hojbjerg because he’s played more games and he’s more reliable [than Thomas Partey]. I wouldn’t if Partey had started well, but he hasn’t been good enough to justify him.”
Oliver Skipp (CM)
O’Hara: “Granit Xhaka had a great Euros but he’s had a nightmare this season – especially against Manchester City when he got sent off and killed the team. He’s got the Arsenal fans again on his back. When I look at Oliver Skipp, he’s like a new signing!”
Dele Alli (CM)
Merson: “Dele Alli’s playing better this season, he’s getting his mojo back and he’s changed his game. He’s getting in the box and he’s scored as well, so for me I would go Dele Alli there [over Martin Odegaard].”
Bukayo Saka (RW)
O’Hara: “Bergwijn started the season well, but he’s still got more to show. For me, I love Saka. I think he’s exciting, I loved him in the Euros. Every time I watch him play, I’m excited to see what he does with the football. He’s not afraid to go at you, is he?”
Merson: “If Arsenal are going to have a chance in this game, he will have to play very very well.”
Harry Kane (ST)
O’Hara: “Harry Kane or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? It was probably an argument two seasons ago – a big argument – because Aubameyang was unbelievable, and now we’re sitting here saying, ‘how’s this guy still playing? How’s he still at Arsenal? How’s he still the captain?’
“Harry Kane has gone to another level, he’s gone to another planet, and I know Aubameyang is a bit older but there’s no argument is there?”
Merson: “I don’t care what team we’re talking about, if we’re talking about Manchester United or Man City or Chelsea, I’m taking Harry Kane! He brings everything to the party, he can go back and get the ball in his own box and play a 60-yard ball to Son over the top on a sixpence.”
Son Heung-min (LW)
Merson: “Son’s just a phenomenal footballer. I still scratch my head and think, ‘how do people not go for Son?’ He’s a team player, he works his socks off, gives everything in every game. He scores goals, he runs without the ball, with the ball. He just ticks every box for me!”
O’Hara: “He’s so good on the ball, he’s strong, he’s tall, he’s good in the air.”