Erling Haaland vs. Harry Kane, but Cristiano Ronaldo misses out


This week, new Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly made a bold, and some would say misguided, proposal for the Premier League to introduce an all-star game of North vs. South, similar to those featured in a variety of sports in the United States.

It hasn’t gone down well, given the ongoing debate around fixture congestion, and raises plenty of questions, even attracting the mockery of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp when he was asked about the idea in the aftermath of the club’s win over Ajax in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

Boehly, who is also a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball, suggested that a North vs. South game could be used to financially benefit all levels of football in England, using MLB as an example as it “made $200 million from a Monday and a Tuesday.”

But Klopp hit back, saying: “He forgets that in the big sports in America, these players have four-month breaks. It is completely different in football. What can I say? Does he want to bring the Harlem Globetrotters [an American exhibition basketball team] as well and let them play against a football team?”

Some fans will hate the idea; some may think that it could replace the preseason Community Shield. In all likelihood, it will never happen. But based on current form, which players would be involved if an all-star game were announced right now? Mark Ogden and James Olley pick their North and South XIs, with no limitations on the number of players from one club.

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Premier League North (by Mark Ogden)

GK, Alisson (Liverpool): Alisson has been a rare bright spot for Jurgen Klopp’s team this season. While many of his teammates are suffering a loss of form, the goalkeeper has been outstanding and edges out Manchester City rival (and fellow Brazil international) Ederson for the No. 1 spot.

RB, Kieran Trippier (Newcastle): With Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s form at Liverpool taking a nosedive, the right-back position is between Man City’s Kyle Walker and Newcastle’s Trippier. I’ve gone for Trippier, but it’s a close pick. Trippier’s set-piece ability swings it in his favour.

CB, Lisandro Martinez (Man United): This spot would usually go to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, but he has been out of sorts, so I’ve gone for Martinez. The 24-year-old had a nightmare start at Manchester United after a €57.37 million summer move from Ajax, but he has overcome that and been outstanding alongside Raphael Varane at the heart of defence.

CB, Ruben Dias (Man City): The best centre-back in the Premier League right now and a true leader in defence for City. Understated, but totally reliable.

LB, Joao Cancelo (Man City): With Andy Robertson struggling for form at Liverpool and Luke Shaw out of the team at Manchester United, Cancelo has no rivals for this position. But even if they were all in top form, the Portugal international would still get the pick.

MID, Rodri (Man City): Every top team wants a world-class defensive midfielder, but City have the best in the Premier League with Rodri. Put him into the Liverpool or Manchester United teams and they would instantly become much stronger with the Spain international shielding the back four.

MID, Christian Eriksen (Man United): Eriksen has been one of the outstanding players of the season so far. His vision and calmness on the ball has led to comparisons to Paul Scholes at Old Trafford and his performances have been even more remarkable considering the battle he has had to endure to play again after suffering a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.

MID, Kevin De Bruyne (Man City): The Belgium midfielder is an obvious selection. In terms of the greatest midfielders of the Premier League era, De Bruyne has earned his place alongside Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

FW, Phil Foden (Man City): Foden can play anywhere in midfield or the forward line, but his pace, movement and eye for goal make him an obvious pick in an attacking role. And the 22-year-old is only getting better.

FW, Mohamed Salah (Liverpool): Salah is still to hit his best form this season, but if any player proves the maxim that form is temporary, but class is permanent, it is the Liverpool forward. Even out of form, he can still win a game out of nothing.

ST, Erling Haaland (Man City): Who else could play in the central striker role? Haaland has 10 Premier League goals already and is on course to smash all kinds of records. He would get into a World XI, never mind a Northern XI.

Substitutes

There is so much depth among the northern squads, so I have looked beyond the Manchester clubs and Liverpool to add Leeds winger Jack Harrison and Everton‘s Anthony Gordon following their impressive starts to the season. But there is no place for Man United’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He hasn’t done enough this season.

GK, Ederson (Man City)
DEF, Kyle Walker (Man City)
DEF, Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
MID, Bernardo Silva (Man City)
MID, Jack Harrison (Leeds United)
FW, Anthony Gordon (Everton)
ST, Darwin Nunez (Liverpool)

Premier League South (by James Olley)

This is a lot harder for the South, not least given the importance of form. I’ve also picked effectively a 4-2-4 formation with Kane dropping deeper into the No. 10 role for 4-2-3-1 because this team is definitely going to lose anyway, so it might as well go down fighting.

GK, Hugo Lloris (Tottenham): Edouard Mendy has had his struggles of late at Chelsea, while Aaron Ramsdale has not looked assured for Arsenal, so Lloris gets the nod for a dependable if unspectacular start to the season.

RB, Reece James (Chelsea): This is a little bit of a stretch on form given his injury problems, but James is the standout right-back/right wing-back in the region.

CB, Cristian Romero (Tottenham): The backbone of the defensive resilience that manager Antonio Conte is trying to introduce at Tottenham.

CB, William Saliba (Arsenal): The 21-year-old would have been nowhere near this team six weeks ago, but a hugely promising start to the season at Arsenal gives him the nod here. He effectively takes the place of Chelsea veteran Thiago Silva solely for that reason.

LB, Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal): The less-heralded arrival from Manchester City at Arsenal (compared to Gabriel Jesus), but one who has given the Gunners much greater control in matches, drifting into midfield from the left flank in a similar style to Cancelo.

MID, Declan Rice (West Ham): The best defensive midfielder the South has to offer. West Ham have made an uncertain start to the season, but there isn’t another player who is more effective at bringing balance to a team.

MID, N’Golo Kante (Chelsea): Right to the end, former Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel lamented not having Kante fit more often. The Blues’ best performance of the season — drawing 2-2 against Tottenham when they really should have won — coincided with another masterclass from the World Cup winner.

FW, Bukayo Saka (Arsenal): It was tempting to play Gabriel Jesus out wide given he performed a similar role at City, but the Brazilian has operated solely as a centre-forward for Arsenal with Saka coming off the right. Saka remains ever dependable, almost always dangerous.

FW, Raheem Sterling (Chelsea): Sterling started to find his feet at the end of the Tuchel era at Chelsea. His pedigree and his understanding with Harry Kane in the England side gives him further reason to make it, although Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha is unfortunate to miss out as a result.

ST, Harry Kane (Tottenham): August hasn’t always been his month, but the England captain has started the season well and is now third on the all-time Premier League top goal-scorers’ list. An obvious choice.

ST, Aleksander Mitrovic (Fulham): Tottenham star Son Heung-Min would be an automatic selection in pretty much any other moment, but his struggles this season are in stark contrast to Mitrovic, who has six goals in seven games, doubling the tally already from his last Premier League campaign.

Substitutes

A lot of these subs would be starters on past peak performance and reputation, but if this mythical game were tomorrow, the South has a lot of their leading stars with form issues to resolve.

GK, Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)
DEF, Thiago Silva (Chelsea)
MID, Pascal Gross (Brighton)
MID, Mason Mount (Chelsea)
FW, Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
FW, Son Heung-Min (Tottenham)
ST, Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal)



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