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Combined XI: Manchester United v Tottenham

It’s been a historically bad season for Manchester United, with the club setting several records for games lost, while Champions League football looks an extremely optimistic prospect.

For Tottenham, however, Ange Postecoglou’s maiden campaign could hardly be going better. With only three first-team additions and the loss of Harry Kane, Spurs look good for a place in the top five, which should be enough to secure Champions League football. 

But how many Spurs players make our current combined XI?

GK – Guglielmo Vicario

Andre Onana arrived with a big reputation, having made the Champions League final with Inter last season following a string of impressive performances, later being nominated for the Ballon d’Or, but it’s Guglielmo Vicario who’s shone brightest this season.

Vicario ranks first in the Premier League for goals prevented and his reading of the game has been a key part of Postecoglou’s high line.

RB – Pedro Porro

Signed for a big transfer fee of around £40m, much was expected of Pedro Porro and since his torrid debut in a 4-1 defeat against Leicester, he’s become one of Tottenham’s most important players with his marauding runs down the right flank crucial to Postecoglou’s style.

CB – Micky van de Ven

It may seem a little hasty putting a defender who’s missed half of the season through injury into this team, but despite being limited to just 11 starts, it’s more than any of Manchester United’s centre-backs have managed this season, and what we saw in those 11 starts is enough to warrant inclusion here.

Prior to Micky van de Ven’s injury against Chelsea, Spurs were picking up 2.6 points per game and conceding 0.9 goals per game. Since the injury, Spurs are picking up 1.4 points per game and conceding 1.8 goals per game.

CB – Cristian Romero

An uncompromising centre-back who could perhaps do with a cooler head on occasion, Cristian Romero perfectly complements his defensive partner. If Spurs have missed Van de Ven, they’re a different side altogether when Romero is also absent. Excluding the Chelsea game when Romero was sent off in the first half, Spurs have picked up 0.8 points per game without the Argentine, shipping 2.4 goals per game.

LB – Destiny Udogie

When fit and firing, Luke Shaw remains one of the division’s best left-backs, and the England man has been a huge loss to Manchester United this season, but Destiny Odogie has established himself as perhaps the best left-back in the country since arriving in the summer.

Udogie remained in Italy after Tottenham completed the signing last year, and it looks to have worked out well for all parties. Not jaded by the previous regime, Udogie arrived in North London raring to go under Postecoglou and looks an outstanding addition.

CM – Yves Bissouma

Brighton have a knack for selling players on for mammoth transfer fees, typically after signing those players at knockdown prices, and there are few who seem able to recapture their Brighton form after leaving. For a while, it looked like Yves Bissouma was going to be another. Antonio Conte didn’t trust Bissouma to play in a midfield two, and publicly decried the Malian’s tactical struggles.

But Conte moved on and Postecoglou found a home for Bissouma, and the 27-year-old is finally showing Tottenham what they bought two summers ago. 

With excellent awareness and positioning, Bissouma is equally adept at breaking up attacks as he in launching them by either playing through defenders or running past them and has been crucial to Tottenham’s excellent start to life under Postecoglou.

CM – Pape Matar Sarr

Pape Matar Sarr is another midfielder we didn’t see the best of under Conte and another who is thriving under Postecoglou. Still only 21, Sarr was on the fringes of Conte’s plans last season but has now found his place in North London.

Perfectly complementing his midfield partner, Sarr’s boundless energy allows him to act as a defensive midfielder while managing to contribute in the final third, scoring two goals and assisting two more so far this season.

RW – Dejan Kulusevski

In those dark years between Mauricio Pochettino and Ange Postecoglou, Spurs found themselves somewhat in the wilderness, with many additions to the club leaving fans underwhelmed. Dejan Kulusevski was not one of them.

One of the few bright sparks of recent campaigns, Kulusevski’s directness has posed constant threats to opposition left-backs

AM – Bruno Fernandes

If we’re strictly discussing the best number 10 this season, it’s not the hardest argument to make in omitting Bruno Fernandes for James Maddison. But owing to Maddison’s versatility, Fernandes gets the nod here.

His antics do little in ingratiate him to opposition fans or TV pundits, and while some question his suitability to wear the armband at Old Trafford, nobody gives more to the cause than Fernandes, covering every blade of grass, and while he’s once again been let down by his supporting cast, the Portuguese remains one of the best creators in the league.

Though he languishes on three assists for the campaign, Fernandes expected assists ranks him second behind only Mohamed Salah.

LW – James Maddison

Although he was deployed as a number 10 after joining Tottenham, we’ve had to shift a couple of things around to accommodate everyone, so James Maddison finds himself drifting in from the left wing (not to worry; Destiny Udogie can provide the width).

Any Tottenham fan would have snapped your hand off for a top-five finish this season, with it likely meaning a Champions League place, and it’s where Tottenham should find themselves (if not one better by the end of the season).

That said, Spurs fans must be wondering what might have been. Through the first 10 games of the season, James Maddison was perhaps the league’s best player with Tottenham top of the table. Though Postecoglou has steadied the ship in recent weeks, he’ll be delighted to have his playmaking maestro at his disposal once again.

CF – Son Heung-min

Though he’s spent much of his career in a slightly deeper role, it may well be that Son Heung-min’s best position is as a lone frontman. He’s long been one of the best finishers in the league, capable of scoring goals with either foot, and has the deadly pace to punish any side daring to play a high line.

Since establishing himself as a first-team regular at Tottenham, Son has reached double figures for goals in all eight seasons. 

His return of 16 goal contributions last season – in what was deemed a quiet campaign for the South Korean – was his lowest since 2015/16, and this season he became the 20th player in Premier League history to clear 50 assists and 100 goals in the competition.

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