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The 5 greatest North London Derbies

The 5 greatest North London Derbies

In what is one of the biggest-ever clashes between bitter Premier League rivals Arsenal and Tottenham, the 191st-edition of the North London Derby in competitive football since 1909 is set to play a massive role in the current – and possibly future – prospects of both capital clubs as they come to grips at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium tonight.

Separated by just four points with both sides playing out 35-fixtures in the league thus far, a win for Arsenal not only would guarantee their place in the Champions League next season, but re-establish a long-standing narrative that the Gunners are the biggest club in London, and certainly, massive in comparison to tomorrow’s counterpart.

But Tottenham has had the rub of the green in the Premier League in recent times while finishing ahead of Arsenal for five consecutive seasons, which led many to believe that the balance of power in north London had finally shifted. This could return to zero given the result tonight, however, should Arsenal win away from the Emirates, and it is not the first time that the North London Derby had massive implications for both clubs across the history of their meeting in anger on a football pitch.

Here are five of the greatest North London Derby’s to feature in one of the most storied rivalries in English football.


Tottenham 0-1 Arsenal (3 May 1971) | Arsenal win secures First Division title

Though not a key clash in the FA Cup or League Cup, this North London Derby goes down in history as one of the five greatest as the first time (but not the last time) that Arsenal secured a league title at White Hart Lane.

Coming into the final day of the 1970-71 league campaign, the Gunners needed to win or secure a goalless draw in order to be crowned first division champions in what would have been their eighth league title in the club’s history, and Arsenal did not fail to disappoint on the day while fighting to a 1-0 win when Ray Kennedy headed home from close range inside the last three minutes after a tense 87-minutes. That season was also significant, as Arsenal went on to secure its first-ever league and FA Cup double.

Tottenham 3-1 Arsenal (14 April 1991) | Tottenham FA Cup semi-final win ends Gunners double dream

Twenty years on from the final day of the season in 1971, Tottenham would exact revenge on their bitter rivals when they clashed with Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final in what would be dubbed St. Hotspur Day. And a pair of English legendary figures were at the center of it all for Spurs that day, with Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker (2) each providing the goals that would oust the Gunners from the competition before Tottenham went on to win the FA Cup that season while scuppering Arsenal’s chances at another double-winning season. Though the Gunners still won the league, securing major honors at the expense of their rivals will forever remain in the collective memory of the fan base.

Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal (25 April 2004) | The Gunners win the Premier League

The 5 greatest North London Derbies

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: Arsenal’s L to R Lauren, Jose Antonio Reyes, Ashley Cole, Robert Pires, Edu, and Thierry Henry celebrates winning the 2003/2004 Football Premier League after drawing 2-2 with Tottenham in their Premier League clash at White Hart Lane in north London, 25 April 2004. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN – – No telcos, website use to description of license with FAPL on, – – (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

“It was kind of weird because I remember we had orders from the police not to over-celebrate if we won the title there. In all fairness, we all said we understood because it might go too far. We went 2-0 up then they came back. Jens Lehmann did what Jens Lehmann did sometimes. They came back into the game and drew 2-2. They started to celebrate like they won the league so I thought, ‘Wait, do they actually realize we just need a point to be champions?’ I said to Ashley Cole at the final whistle, ‘Now we are going to celebrate.”

We wanted to be humble at the beginning of the game but you want to celebrate a draw? Really? We just needed a point! We celebrated and the pictures are there to prove it now. It was always important to have the last laugh and the story will tell you we won the league at the Lane, and it wasn’t the first time by the way.” – Thierry Henry (quotes from Give Me Sport via Sky Sports)

Tottenham 5-1 Arsenal (22 January 2008) | Tottenham break their nine-year duck

2008 was a very good calendar year when it came to the North London Derby and Tottenham. Later that year they would go on to earn a point in their swashbuckling 4-4 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates (see below), but in the early doors of 2008 it would be Spurs that had the first laugh after they finally broke their nearly 9-year duck and defeat Arsenal for the first time since 1999. A four-goal blitz put the match to bed before Emmanuel Adebayor bagged a consolation goal only for Spurs to find a fifth before the match came to an end.

The 5-1 thrashing came in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final after a 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Emirates and would see Spurs go on to win the League Cup that season in a similar fashion to 1991. Two semi-final wins which led to trophies at the expense of Arsenal will forever be feathers in Tottenham’s cap.

Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham (29 October 2008) | Late Spurs comeback at the Emirates

Though this North London Derby did not have any Premier League title or cup-winning implications, the 4-4 draw at the Emirates during the 2008-09 season was a perfect advert for the bitter rivalry as a whole.

Arsenal went 1-0 down thanks to former academy graduate David Bentley in the 13th-minute before they fought back to score three straight goals to jump to a 3-1 lead by the time Emmanuel Adebayor scored 19-minutes into the second half. Darren Bent brought the deficit back to one just one minute later, only for Robin van Persie to restore the two-goal lead three minutes after. But it would be Spurs that would celebrate come full time after a late comeback in the final five minutes through Jermain Jenas (89) and a last-gasp equalizer from Aaron Lennon (94+). Spurs may have finished 21-points adrift of Arsenal that season, but the epic draw is one of the annals of the North London Derby.