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Combined XI: Arsenal vs. Manchester City

Ahead of this weekend's Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester City, Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI from both squads.

Arsenal welcome Manchester City to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday with both sides having endured disappointing Premier League campaigns so far.

The Gunners go into the weekend sitting ninth in the table and seven points off the top four, although they did end their longest winless run for 42 years in their most recent league outing on Monday night.

Man City are 10 points better off than their hosts and will be favourites to win, but their derby defeat to Manchester United last weekend was their fourth already this season to leave the champions 14 points behind leaders Liverpool.

Here, Sports Mole selects its strongest possible combined XI from both squads, using only the players available for this weekend's match.

Combined XI: ARS vs. MNC

The goalkeeper is one of the easier choices in this XI, with Ederson establishing himself as one of the best in the world in his position since joining City. Bernd Leno has certainly not been the biggest culprit of Arsenal's defensive issues over the past year and a half, but he is still way off challenging Ederson's supremacy.

It is in defence where the toughest choices come, with Kyle Walker perhaps the only straightforward inclusion, particularly with an injury doubt lingering over Hector Bellerin. Indeed, Walker's main competition for this XI comes from his teammate Joao Cancelo, who has been forced to play second fiddle to the England international for most of the campaign so far.

The rest of the back four are where the main weaknesses lie in both teams, and so any combination could be questioned. With Aymeric Laporte still sidelined, Fernandinho has seemingly established himself as Man City's first-choice centre-back, although the fact that it is not his favoured position has shown in a couple of recent defeats.

John Stones is also now injured, leaving Nicolas Otamendi as the only remaining option from Man City. The Argentine poses a goal threat and just a couple of seasons ago was regarded as arguably the league's best defender, but he is also rash and prone to a mistake. In any other combined XI with a fellow 'big six' side, Otamendi probably would not make the team.

However, it just so happens that all of Arsenal's contenders are even more rash and prone to errors than him; Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz regularly give attackers a chance, while Calum Chambers still does not inspire the confidence you would expect from a centre-back at a big club.

Candidates are also sparse at left-back, where Benjamin Mendy is selected despite not starting a Premier League game since the end of November. Angelino has been preferred recently but has lost two of his four league starts this season, while Oleksandr Zinchenko is only just on his way back from injury and Sead Kolasinac is the only option from Arsenal with Kieran Tierney injured.

The standard takes a sharp upturn in quality when it comes to midfield, though, and the only question is which Man City trio to pick. David Silva would ordinarily make the cut, but a slight injury doubt hanging over his head means that Bernardo Silva gets the nod for this one alongside shoo-ins Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne.

Ilkay Gundogan also deserves a mention in an area of the field where Man City are dominant, with Arsenal's main candidate being Matteo Guendouzi. Mesut Ozil continues to split opinion, while the likes of Granit Xhaka, Joe Willock and Lucas Torreira are some way off being able to challenge the City players for a place.

Arsenal do finally have their first representative in the team in captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has managed to carry on getting regular goals despite his side's poor general form this season, scoring 11 times in his 16 league appearances.

Aubayemang's selection pushes Raheem Sterling out to the right as Riyad Mahrez misses out along with Nicolas Pepe - an injury doubt for the weekend - and Alexandre Lacazette, who was seriously considered to lead the line with Sergio Aguero expected to miss the game.

Indeed, rewind two weeks and Lacazette may well have been chosen ahead of Gabriel Jesus, but the Brazilian has rediscovered his scoring touch since then with five in his last three games for City, including a Champions League hat-trick in midweek.

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