The North London Derby – the History of Arsenal vs Tottenham

North London Derby rivalry

Arsenal and Tottenham meet at the Emirates Stadium this weekend in the North London Derby – but what is the history of the fixture and is it the biggest derby in the country? Or even the world!

Arsenal hold the North London derby bragging rights with 81 wins to Tottenham’s 63.

They won one derby a piece last season – both getting the three points on home turf.

Can Unai Emery get a win in his first North London derby this weekend?


Is the North London derby the biggest of them all?

The recent furore over the attack on the Boca Juniors bus by River Plate fans prior to their Copa Libatadrores final second leg highlighted the hatred that exists between the two rivals and indeed, how seriously South American fans take their football rivalries in general. On this side of the pond, fan animosity seldom reaches the same scale these days, there are however certain fixtures that always catch in the eye in terms of rivalries: Celtic/Rangers, Man United/Liverpool, Liverpool/Everton, United/City are all fiercely contested but for sheer resentment the North London derby is still top of the pile in terms of opposing fans who just plainly, can’t stand the sight of each other.


The beginnings

So just why is it that two teams in such proximity bear such animosity towards each other? Arsenal fans will point towards Tottenham’s jealousy of Herbert Chapman’s title-winning Arsenal sides of the 1920’s which earned the supremo a place in the marble halls of the old Highbury stadium. Spurs fans will meanwhile wag an accusatory finger at the nefarious antics of former Arsenal chairman Sir Henry Norris a few years previously, who had the bright idea of moving the ailing Dial Square F.C. from Woolwich a few miles up the road resulting in Tottenham’s relegation to the old second division amongst other acts would make Machiavelli blush. Norris used his considerable powers of persuasion as both as businessman and politician to lobby, intimidate and downright bully his peers into the move and the spurs club, who were in situe in North London since 1882, were left to lick their wounds as Norris appointed Chapman and the newly monikered Arsenal went from strength to strength.


Double delight

This was all a distant memory as the swinging Sixties came into view and Bill Nicholson took the helm at his beloved White Hart Lane and led the Lilywhites to unprecedented success, the double-winning team of 1961 was littered with talent as names like Mackay, Blanchflower and White all rolled off the tongue. As the decade progressed Nicholson added the likes of Jimmy Greaves and Ian Gilzean to the side, accumulating more cup success along the way. Unfortunately, the next decade did not begin quite as successfully for Spurs as their neighbours rolled into town on 1st May 1971, Arsenal knew a win or scoreless draw would earn new manager Bertie Mee instant success and almost more importantly huge bragging rights over their rivals. A Ray Kennedy header in the dying minutes sealed a memorable win for Arsenal and they followed it up a few days later with a 2-1 win in the cup final to emulate Tottenham’s achievement of a decade earlier and rub salt in the wound.


The Wenger era

Arsene Wenger when joining Arsenal

Although the intervening years for Spurs were punctuated with some cup success both domestically and in   Europe, Spurs could only look on enviously as Arsenal continued to add to their trophy cabinet with George Graham’s side of the late 80’s and early 90’s adding two league titles and numerous cups to their trophy      collection. This was compounded by the arrival of an unknown Frenchman from Monaco in the summer of 1996; Arsene Wenger was an unknown quantity with limited managerial experience in Japan and France. Butthe  Frenchaman’s impact was almost instant as he brought talented unknowns such as Patrick Vieira, Emannuel Petit and a useful winger named Thierry Henry to England and led the Gunners to new heights.

This era came to a head in the 2003-2004 season as Arsenal, in a repeat of the 1971 campaign, came to White Hart Lane knowing a solitary point would guarantee team them another title, the match was all the more mouth-watering owing to the fact that Arsenal had gone through the season unbeaten. The visitors got off to a terrific start and went 2-0 up through Vieira and Pires, Tottenham rallied and got a last gasp draw courtesy of a Robbie Keane penalty. It was all in vain however, as the point meant that Arsenal once again had the Indian sign over their neighbours and a certain Sulzeer Campbell returned to his former stamping ground and left as a title winner, which brings me to….


The Sol Campbell conundrum

He wasn’t the first player to move between the sides and certainly wasn’t the last, but few players divide opinion in North London as much as Sol Campbell. Again, there are two very different sides as to how his free transfer under the Bosman ruling played out in the summer of 2001. Arsenal fans will argue that the former Spurs captain was going nowhere at White Hart Lane as the team lurched from one mediocre campaign to the next and his decision to jump ship was justified by his medal haul during his time at Highbury, with the highlight being the afore-mentioned title win in 2004. Their opposing supporters have a very different view of the whole saga however, pointing out that Campbell had always indicated he would sign a new contract at Spurs but deliberately wound down his contract at his boyhood club before turning his back on them for their bitterest rivals.

What is certain however, is when Campbell unexpectedly appeared at a press conference that was originally scheduled to announce the signing of goalkeeper Richard Wright (remember him?), the football landscape of North London was irrevocably changed and the hatred between the two sides only deepened. Campbell himself remarked when asked about the potential move: “Being a Spurs fan as a boy and a player for so many years, it would be hard to sign for Arsenal. I don’t think the fans here would ever forgive me”, that just may have been that may have just been the biggest understatement in football.


The times they are a-changing

Harry Redknapp took charge at White Hart Lane in 2008 with Spurs in the middle of a very worrying slide, they had only managed a paltry 2 points in their opening 9 matches, ‘Arry quickly restored order and an amazing 4-4 draw at the Emirates shortly after he took charge was a signal of things to come. Redknapp decided to convert Gareth Bale from left back to left wing and signed Dutch international Rafa Van Der Vaart from Real Madrid; both proved masterstrokes and meant Tottenham qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 2010.

Relive Arsenal’s memorable 4-4 draw with Tottenham in the North London derby from 2008.

Arsenal meanwhile were forced to cut their cloth after their move to the Emirates Stadium and although there were flickers of the glories of the “invincibles” era, the emergence of foreign ownership meant that teams like Chelsea and Man City overtook the Gunners in the search for Premier League titles. Wenger was always able to ensure Champions League qualification, usually at the expense of their nearest rivals and this again ensured the Arsenal faithful could lord it over their unfortunate counterparts from over the road.

The appointment of Mauricio Pochettino in 2014 has marked a sea-change in Tottenham’s fortunes and the Argentinean has worked wonders on a somewhat shoestring budget to ensure that the Lilywhites have qualified for three successive Champions’ League campaigns. This has come in the midst of some upheaval at Arsenal which has seen them failing to qualify for the Champions League for the past two seasons, something that would have been unthinkable a few short years ago.


North London Derby Betting Offer

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Arsenal vs Spurs North London Derby


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