THE NORTH LONDON DERBY: It’s All On The Line
Considered one of the oldest derbies in Europe, the North London derby holds great significance not just in England, but also across the world. With Mauricio Pochettino at the heart of Spurs, the enmity in the recent past has become more intense as the Lilywhites have seen a spectacular resurgence see them finish above the Gunners in the league, more often than and also reach the Champions League final last season.
The first ever league meeting between the two sides came on 4th December 1909 at Arsenal’s former home, Manor Ground situated in Plumstead. Walter Lawrence was on the scoresheet that day to give Arsenal a 1-0 win over Spurs.
Unlike the Merseyside derby that still sees members of the same family that support both Everton and Liverpool sit together at the stadium, on the day of the North London derby, all love is lost.
The rivalry between the two clubs soared after World War I when England’s top league had to be expanded by two teams. Chelsea who finished 19th and faced relegation were somehow given the nod to stay in the league. The second spot was to be decided by the means of a vote. Tottenham who had finished 20th in the league and Arsenal with a 6th place finish in Division Two, along with 5 other clubs had bid for the spot in the league. Arsenal, after being endorsed by league resident John McKenna on the grounds of a longer league membership ended up securing the second spot with 18 votes against Spurs’ 8.
Unlike the modern-day North London derby, the derbies of the past involved far more bitter contests with a notable event coming in September 1922. A bloodied, battering and a vicious contest between the two clubs saw the Football Association intervene with both the clubs being warned and threatened to play their remaining fixtures behind closed doors.
Who has come out on top?
The two London clubs have faced each other a total of 186 times with the Gunners having the last laugh with 77 wins. Spurs, with 58 wins aren’t that far behind their local rivals. The rest of the 51 fixtures have ended in a stalemate.
It’s fair to say that Arsenal have enjoyed a fair bit of success, having won 13 league titles, 13 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 15 Community Shields and a UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1994. 4 miles down the road at the White Hart Lane, Spurs boast of a meagre 2 league titles, 8 FA Cups and 4 League Cups in comparison.
Wenger’s derby dominance
Having had an illustrious career at the helm, Arsene Wenger had the privilege of managing Arsenal a record 50 times in the North London derby. It’s fair to say that his record against the club’s biggest rivals are brilliant with Arsenal having won 22, drawn 20 and lost just 8 derbies. Apart from 2017, he has never finished the league under Spurs.
His longest undefeated streak against Spurs came between March 2000 and January 2008, a span of almost 8 years when Arsenal went undefeated for 21 matches. However, the hot streak ended in the most miserable fashion when Wenger suffered his biggest ever loss in the derby as the Gunners were annihilated 5-1 in the second-leg clash of the League Cup. The fact that Tottenham Hotspur went on to win the cup the same season still haunt Arsenal to this day.
Another interesting fact about Wenger in the fixture is that he has never lost successive derbies. Another feather to the cap for the Frenchman to cherish in his cooling-off period.
St. Totteringham’s Day
Having celebrated St. Totteringham’s Day almost every season since the early 2000s, Arsenal fans enjoy an unofficial holiday on the day it is mathematically impossible for their rivals to finish above them in the league.
However, the annual party had to be called off in 2017 when on 30th April that year, Spurs famously beat Arsenal 2-0 at the White Hart Lane; a win that would ensure Pochettino’s men a finish above Arsenal in the league for the first time in 22 years.
The one that got away
Former Gunners youth coach Roy Massey had let go of Harry Kane, blaming his fitness levels and stating that he didn’t meet the club’s elite requirements. This has become a running gag for Spurs’ fan to laugh about as Kane would, later on, become one of the greatest strikers of his generation, a Golden Boot winner at the 2018 World Cup and the two-time winner of the prestigious Golden boot in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons
With 10 goals in 12 games, England’s “one-season wonder” has the greatest number of goals in the fixture. Emmanuel Adebayor, having played on both patches, also boasts of 10 goals in the fixture.
Arsenal legends such Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie and the electrifying Gareth Bale have returned with a decent record of 5 goals apiece in the derby which is testament to Kane’s prowess in a season-defining clash.
Red. White. Both?
Tom Pratt became the first player to have played for both clubs when he moved from Tottenham to Arsenal in the 1903-04 season. Jimmy Brain, on the other hand, became the first Arsenal player to move to Tottenham when he joined the club in 1931.
Emmanuel Adebayor is the latest player to have played for either side of North London.
A trip down North London lane
Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham (3rd May 1971)
With Arsenal needing a goalless draw or a win against Spurs on the final day of the 1970-71 league campaign to win the league over Leeds United, Ray Kennedy stepped up and headed home the winner from close quarters with 3 minutes to go on the clock. Arsenal, in the dying embers of the game held on to clinch the league.
Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham (24th March 2004)
Enroute to becoming the ‘Invincibles’, Arsenal needed a point away to Spurs to seal the title in 2004. With first-half goals from Patrick Viera and Robert Pires, Arsenal looked poised to clinch the title in real fashion. However, a long-range effort from Jamie Redknapp and a penalty from Robbie Keane meant that the Invincibles had to settle for a draw to win the league at the White Hart Lane, a nightmare that haunts Spurs fans to this day.
Tottenham 2-0 Arsenal (30th April 2017)
One of the biggest derby nights for the yids, Tottenham ended the 22-year St. Totteringham Day celebrations, when strikes from Dele Alli and Spurs’ golden boy, Harry Kane ensured that they finished higher above their local rivals.
With the last fixture between two of London’s behemoths ending in a pulsating 2-2 draw, the North London derby just goes to show that it is a certified classic.