By Chris Myson
In this Premier League weekend, there are arguably two main events for us all to enjoy.
On Sunday, Manchester United host old rivals Liverpool and Arsenal are at home to champions Manchester City in two mouthwatering matches between some of the biggest clubs in England.
In a special combined XI piece ahead of the clashes, Goal.com analyses each area of all four of the squads on show on Sunday and attempts to come up with what would be the best combined team, lining up in a 4-4-2 formation.
We also choose a manager to lead our combined side from the four talented squads. Read on to find out who we have selected in our XI and why!
Joe Hart may not have hit the heights of last season for Manchester City so far in this campaign, but he still ranks as one of Europe’s best goalkeepers and gets the nod for our team.
At Manchester United, David de Gea seems to have edged out Anders Lindegaard as first-choice, but still has a lot of work to do to stamp out inconsistencies in his game.
Wojciech Szczesny has provided a boost to Arsenal after returning from injury, although he is still to reach the peak form he showed when he first broke into the first-team.
That is a similar story with Pepe Reina at Liverpool, who is far from his previous levels and has had another frustrating season with a number of high-profile errors putting his place under threat.
At right-back we opt for the defensive stability of Pablo Zabaleta, who narrowly gets the nod over Bacary Sagna, while the likes of Rafael and Glen Johnson make it a competitive choice.
In the middle we go for the powerful central defensive duo of Vincent Kompany and Nemanja Vidic.
Kompany has not been at his best for City this season but the captain is still influential in defence for the champions, while the regular absence of world-class stopper Vidic has been one of the primary reasons for the struggles of the United back line so far this season.
Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Joleon Lescott, Matija Nastasic, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are amongst a string of top-class central defenders to miss out.
At left-back, the impressive Kieran Gibbs picks up our selection. His impressive form this season earns him a spot in the side over the more experienced options from the other three squads in Patrice Evra, Gael Clichy and Jose Enrique.
As one of the best all-round midfielders in world football, Yaya Toure powers his way into the spine of our team due to his status as a player who would be an automatic pick for any side in the world.
It would be fair to say that so far this season he has not reproduced the powerful displays for which he has become known as regularly as he has done in past campaigns but he is still easily good enough to make our combined side – any of the other three teams would take him in an instant.
Alongside him we go for Arsenal and England’s cultured star Jack Wilshere. The starlet has wasted little time getting back to his best after returning from a long-term injury absence and the future looks very bright. His style makes him an ideal partner for Toure in the middle.
That means Michael Carrick and Manchester United’s central options miss out on a pick, while Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard is arguably the highest-profile player to fail to gain a place in the middle of the park.
Out wide, we select Theo Walcott on the right. He has been used as a striker successfully in recent weeks, but will still regularly be used on the wing by Arsene Wenger and his threat of pace and goals sees him narrowly edge into the team.
On the left we go for David Silva, who will be given the freedom to roam and cut inside. He remains one of the Premier League’s best creative talents and a must-pick for our XI.
Antonio Valencia, Nani, Samir Nasri, Raheem Sterling and Lukas Podolski are amongst the players to miss out on a wing selection.
Robin van Persiegets the nod as one of our picks. For 18 months now, he has been one of the most influential Premier League players and is having an equally strong impact at United as he was at Arsenal. Wenger and Roberto Mancini have both admitted he could be the difference in the title race.
We go for Liverpool star Luis Suarez as the other selection in attack. At times he has carried the Reds going forward this season, adding a lethal finishing touch to his already magnificent all-round play, which just sees him get the edge over a number of other world-class forwards.
Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero can both consider themselves extremely unfortunate to miss out on a place in the side, with Van Persie and Suarez’s form and impact this year just giving them the advantage.
Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli, Chicharito, Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and new Liverpool signing Daniel Sturridge are amongst the other strikers who are battling just to get a spot on the bench for our combined XI – what a line-up!
The fact Manchester United enjoy a seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League table, yet only have two players who make this combined XI perhaps highlights how heavily they are currently relying on the goals of Van Persie in attack.
Another factor behind their success, though, is of course manager Sir Alex Ferugson, who is the obvious choice to lead our side.
The experienced Scot is looking likely to win a a 13th league title this season and it is nothing against the undoubted prowess of Wneger, Mancini or Brendan Rodgers that they don’t get selected here.
The ‘Fergie factor’ continues to be crucial to United’s success. His unrivalled man management skills continue to be crucial in getting the best out of the squad at his disposal.
Suggested combined Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City & Man Utd XI
Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson
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