Picking a Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City, Manchester United Combined XI

  • 03/11/2017
Picking a Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City, Manchester United Combined XI
This Sunday, four of the Premier League's finest teams will commence battle in what promises to be an enrapturing slate of football.

Manchester City host Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium and will seek to keep their unbeaten start to the season going, then afterward Stamford Bridge will welcome back Jose Mourinho as Chelsea square off against Manchester United.

With such a collision of stars occurring, we've taken the opportunity to pick a combined XI, in a 4-3-3 shape, using players only from these four clubs. It's based on the form they've shown in the Premier League this season only, so it's a 10-game sample and best performers get the nod.

We start with an easy, indisputable choice: Manchester United's David De Gea takes his place between the sticks.

He has been the most impressive goalkeeper in the Premier League through 10 games, not just because of the remarkable eight clean sheets he's already kept, but because of the brilliant saves he rolls out on a near-weekly basis.

His highlight of the season so far was probably his instinct stop from Joel Matip at Anfield earlier this month, but he's also pulled off stunning saves against Jamie Vardy, Wayne Rooney and Jese. Despite United's excellent start to the campaign as an attacking force, there's a case to be made for De Gea being their MVP so far.

There was only one real competitor for Kyle Walker to see off for this spot, and that's Antonio Valencia. The Ecuadorian has been an ever-present in United's Premier League season to date, has contributed to those clean sheets and even scored a rocket strike against Everton.

But Walker's impact on this rampant Manchester City side outpaces even Valencia. The Englishman has batted away the pressures of being a 50 million footballer en route to a slew of complete performances, which include the bonus of four assists in nine games.

His speed and ever-churning motor allow him to impact in all three thirds of the pitch, and he's adapted to Pep Guardiola's attacking style seamlessly, consistently delivering the low crosses the Spaniard loves having timed his runs to spring into space.

Despite a rotation of partners and the chopping and changing of formations, Eric Bailly's been stellar at the back for Manchester United.

His Premier League performances have been near-flawless at times, and the aggression and strength he displays when stepping out and engaging markers has had fans purring. He makes excellent decisions at key moments, has the physicality to overpower forwards and is underrated as a ball-player, too.

The Ivorian's made just one error this seasonswitching off in a crossing situation against Stoke City, directly leading to a goalbut you can forgive that from such an otherwise-consistent performer.

There were a few legitimate options here, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Phil Jones enjoying strong seasons, too, but John Stones' performances have been off the charts at times.

A divisive figure due to his unorthodox style of play (for an Englishman), Stones will forever be considered by some as a needless risk-taker and liability in defence. Players of his ilk generally struggle to recover from past mistakes, but Stones seems to be steadily winning over the doubters.

His use of the ball has been superb, as usual, splitting lines with clever passes and feeding Manchester City's playmakers. He's also improved significantly from a defensive standpoint, and has done well to nullify quick forwards this season with some fantastic recovery work and anticipation.

Arsenal's start to the season has been typically up and down, inclusive of extreme highs and extreme lows, but one shining light throughout has been Sead Kolasinac.

A free transfer from Schalke 04 secured during the summer, the Bosnian has added much-needed steel to the Gunners XI, and when he powers forward, the crowd roars. He'sso big,sostrong; there's no stopping him once he gets going, and he's been surprisingly productive in front of goal in the early stages of the campaign too.

He's played a little at centre-back, where he impressed, but it's from left-wing-back his best is unlockeda sentiment echoed by his haul of one goal and three assists from seven games there.

There were three strong candidates for this role, but Fernandinho's exploits at The Hawthorns last weekend lift him above N'Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic in the running just in time.

The Brazilian plays a complex role in Pep Guardiola's system. Someone has to mediate between the ball-playing maestros ahead, the bombarding full-backs and the roaming central defenders. Someone has to fill the gaps, interpret the moves and all the while stay mistake-free in possession in dangerous areas.

Fernandinho, somehow, manages this. Many thought that a fit-again Ilkay Gundogan might steal his role, or that Yaya Toure could still play a part, but it's been all this guy, and he's been brilliant.

Still the heartbeat of Manchester City's midfield, still the conductor of their attack. Guardiola can purchase as many new midfielders and attackers as he likes, but Silva remains key.

The Spaniard's in charge of setting City's tempo and cycling the ball through tight spots and rotations, shifting the point of attack from left to right. He's well on his way to producing his best assist tally since 2011-12, where he managed a whopping 15 in the Premier League, despite the fact he plays deeper now, almost as the Andres Iniesta of the system.

The only negative on his season so far is that he shaved those gorgeous locks off, causing a short social media riot.

Kevin De Bruyne was the first name selected for this combined XI, as he's arguably beenthe best player in the Premier League so far this season regardless of position.

His passing range has always been impressive, but right now he's pulling off attempts few would think possible. City's wingers have been piling in the goals, and they owe a lot to the Belgian's inch-perfect deliveries, laid right in their stride at full speed, onto their strong feet.

He's only scored one goal in league play thus far, but it was an important one: a strike that sunk Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, beating compatriot Thibaut Courtois from distance.

Over the course of the first few weeks of the season, the most impressive attacking midfielder or wide man was Henrikh Mhkitaryan, but his form dropped off a cliff just after the September international break and is yet to recover.

During that time, Leroy Sane's done the complete opposite. He's gotten better and better, made himself a key factor in his side's attack and has punished defences to the tune of six goals and five assists in 588 Premier League minutes. Dare we say it: those are statistics Lionel Messi would be proud of!

There are still times where the end product or final decision is lacking, but on the whole, Sane has improved drastically in the last 12 months and now represents a scary prospect cutting in off the flank.

Raheem Sterling's production has been nearly as strong as Sane's; he hasn't quite managed to match the creativity (two assists vs. five) but is ahead on goals (seven vs. six) and is City's joint top scorer in the Premier League.

It was crucial that Sterling improved in front of goal and built belief in himself as a finisher. The main knock on him over the last few years is the fact he has tended to freeze in front of goal; for Liverpool, he would too often take it round three or four, then panic and miss from a few yards.

Impacting equally well as a starter or as a substitute, it's all been golden since what was considered the "turning point" in his pysche: the last-gasp winner at AFC Bournemouth in August.

Picking a striker to lead this XI was the hardest part; there are four excellent options to choose from.

A look at the goalscoring charts shows Romelu Lukaku, Sergio Aguero (both seven), Gabriel Jesus and Alvaro Morata (both six) on very similar tallies; they've all scored frequently and helped carry their teams toward the top of the table.

With four elite options on near-level pegging, we considered what else (other than goals) the strikers offer, and picked Jesus as a result. More than any other, he works, presses, grafts; he's quite selfless at times, not just in foregoing goals and laying the ball off to others, but with his movement and runs.

He completes a Manchester City-heavy combined XI (eight Citizens, three others,no Chelsea representatives), but given how immense they've been in every area, it shouldn't surprise.
  
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