Chelsea and Arsenal along with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have together have set the stage for the first ever all-English Euopean final in the Europa League. The former pair head into their Europa League final in less than two days.
With massive injury blows to both sides, it must be difficult for Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri to pick their lineups. So far, Hector Bellerín, Rob Holding, Aaron Ramsey, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are confirmed to miss the prestigious Europa League final. Making matters worse for Chelsea N’Golo Kante is also a doubt.
However, what if they could exchange players between them to create an almost perfect lineup? Here’s the combined XI of the strongest Blues and Gunners:
[Note: This lineup shall only include players fit for the Europa League final.]
Goalkeeper: Kepa Arrizabalaga
The Spaniard was imported for the highest ever transfer fee paid for a goalkeeper. And though Kepa has by no means justified his pricetag, he has definitely performed well after a shaky start. The Chelsea No. 1’s distribution is second only to Ederson in England, an aspect much appreciated in the modern game.
Bernd Leno only misses out by thin margins despite being a better shotstopper as his counterpart recorded more cleansheets, performed more in the Europa League and also is better at penalties. Moreover, Petr Cech is clearly past his prime and wouldn’t start over neither of the mentioned keepers.
Right-back: Cesar Azpilicueta
The decision to choose Azpilicueta was by no means difficult as Hector Bellerín is not fit to play any time soon. The Spaniard is easily better than
Stephan Lichtsteiner, who has had a severely underwhelming season with the Gunners.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was also an option, but considering he’s in fact a central midfielder and is better going forward from full-back positions, he misses out.
Centre-backs: Sokratis Paspastathopoulos and Laurent Koscielny
The red side of London take this category away not because of their defensive superiority, but purely due to lack of options.
With Christensen and Rudiger confirmed to be out injured, he does not make the list and with the Greek international and the Arsenal skipper being better than the shaky David Luiz, the choice was more of a result of circumstances.
Left-back: Sead Kolasinac
Kolasinac offers a huge physical presence and aggressiveness to the sides he features for, neither of which Marcos Alonso can offer. Moreover, despite by not big margins, the former Schalke man offers more defensively and considerably more offensively.
Emerson Palmieri would be a hard name to consider as he slightly edges Alonso in defensive capabilities, but is rather on par or worse in other departments.
Defensive midfielder: Jorginho
The Brazilian international had a sensational first half of the season, getting grouped alongside Lucas Torreira as the signings of the season.
However, though the second half wasn’t a disaster of any sorts, discussions about their quality reduced and so did their popularity. But either way, both players were instrumental for their respective clubs.
The Uruguayan misses out in order to avoid a completely defensive side.
Central midfielders: Granit Xhaka and N’Golo Kante
With regards to the fact that the Frenchman hasn’t been completely ruled out of featuring in the tie, it would be a shame not to include him. Kante would feature as a No. 8, a role he has worked extremely hard to mould himself into. Over time he has improved consistently, and his defensive capabilities can only help the team whilst Jorginho switches to a creative mode.
Xhaka has had a better season than most people give him credit for, barely missing out on Arsenal’s Player of the Year award. Xhaka and Torreira have collectively been their side’s best midfielders as well.
The Swiss international’s creative abilities as a deep-lying playmaker would be a great addition to this Europa league finalist’s combines playing XI.
Attacking midfielder: Eden Hazard
To not have Eden Hazard in any lineup would be shambolic. The Belgian is arguably the best winger in the Premier League and is a proven creator, winning the PL Playmakers’ Award this season.
As building the best XI is the task, we cannot play him at his preferred left-wing position, as playing with one winger is not possible. Alex Iwobi and Willian aren’t exactly world-class wingers, so Hazard has to be slotted in in a No. 10 role.
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Forwards: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette
The West London side really have an issue with attackers. Neither Olivier Giroud nor Golzalo Higuain have had a stellar season.
Meanwhile, Aubameyang won the Premier League Golden Boot, whilst also scoring a hatrick against Valencia in the semi-final. Lacazette has been instrumental in both legs of the semi-final and quarter-final of the Europa League, whilst also having won the most points in the Premier League.
Giroud’s Europa League goalscoring record is nothing short of impressive this season, but his output were against less intimidating sides compared to his former club.