Tribal Football Rivalries – Arsenal Vs Tottenham Hotspur (North London Derby)

Local derby games contested between Premier League giants Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur is referred to as the North London Derby

The derby originates from November 1887 but the first competitive fixture between both sides took place in December 1909. Arsenal and Tottenham met in the first division and the gunners won by a 1-0 score line.

The derby in November 1887 was abandoned due to darkness, despite Tottenham leading, then Royal Arsenal by a 2-1 score line. In the early years, Arsenal played in the Second Division, whereas Tottenham Hotspur played in the First Division.

The North London derby intensified when Arsenal moved from the Manor Ground, Plumstead to Highbury in 1913. This meant that they were Tottenham’s closest neighbours, with White Hart Lane being located just four miles away.

The rivalry escalated in 1919, after World War I, when the First Division was expanded by two teams. Arsenal finished sixth place in the Second Division and Tottenham Hotspur finished 20th place in the First Division.

Chelsea finished 19th place and kept their place in the English Top Flight, whereas Arsenal replaced Tottenham, despite only finishing sixth. However, Arsenal were awarded a fifth place finish by the Football League in 1980 due to a mathematical error in the goal average.

Tottenham fans were infuriated by the decision and accused Arsenal chairman Sir Henry Norris of using underhand tactics to secure their bid. However, these accusations were never proven and they were awarded their place in the First Division due to their long-lasting relationship with the Football League.

Spurs were also elected to join the Football League Second Division, despite finishing in 7th place at the end of the 1907/08 Southern League campaign. They were awarded a place at the expense of Southern League champions Queens Park Rangers, who’d applied for the Second Division and resigned from the Southern League.

Tottenham won promotion to the First Division almost immediately by winning the Second Division to gain promotion in 1920. However, Spurs faced two more spells in recent years out of the English top flight, from 1928-1933 and 1935-1950.

They have contested in the same division in all but one season since 1950, which was in the 1977/78 campaign. The intensity of the rivalry was cooled after the Second World War because Tottenham allowed Arsenal to play at White Hart Lane due to Highbury being used as an ARP Station. Their stay at White Hart Lane was prolonged due to bombings that took place during the war.

In September 1922, the rivalry turned sour, which led to the Football Association threatening to play the following meeting behind closed doors. The rivalry in recent years is for boastfulness and local pride, although Tottenham Hotspur are contesting to knock Arsenal off their perch, by closely finishing behind them in the 2015/16 season.

Crossing the divide has been strongly forbidden and only a selected few have dared to making the unmoral and damning switch. Jimmy Brain became the first player to switch from Tottenham to Arsenal in 1931 and David Bentley, William Gallas, Emmanuel Adebayor and Sol Campbell have all played for both clubs in recent years.

Sol Campbell was nicknamed “Judas” by Tottenham Hotspur supporters when he left White Hart Lane to join Arsenal in 2001. Both teams have various high-profile supporters, including the entertaining and bemusing rivalry between TV presenter Piers Morgan, who supports Arsenal, and entrepreneur and former Tottenham chairman Sir Alan Sugar.

The pair also have selected days to celebrate the North London derby. Arsenal supporters celebrate St Totteringham’s Day when they’ve accumulated enough points to mathematically finish above Tottenham in the league. Whereas Tottenham celebrate St. Hotspur day to commemorate their 3-1 FA Cup Semi-Final win in 1991 on 14 April.

Arsenal have enjoyed two successful eras, most recently under their current manager Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman has won three Premier League titles and 6 FA Cups during his 20-year reign, including their famous “invincibles” season in 2003/04, which they remained unbeaten for the entire league campaign.

The gunners also had a golden period during the 1930s, winning the First Division league titles on 5 occasions and they also won the FA Cup twice. Overall, Arsenal have won the league title 13 times and a joint-record 12 FA Cups.

Tottenham Hotspur have only won the First Division two times, although they’ve won the FA Cup on 8 occasions. Their most successful era took place in the 1960/61 season, when they won the double.

Arsenal Vs Tottenham – Head-to-Head Record

Teams Wins Draws Goals League Titles


78 51 289 13
Tottenham Hotspur 55 51 245 12

The head-to-head record in the North London derby favours Arsenal, along with the tally of league titles won by both clubs. Arsenal also hold the record for the biggest winning margin, which they broke with an 8-0 victory at White Hart Lane in March 1935.

The most goals in a single game was in November 2004, when Arsenal beat Tottenham by a 5-4 score line in the Premier League. Arsenal have also scored the most goals in the North London derby, netting 44 goals more than Spurs.

However, Tottenham’s Billy Minter and Bobby Smith hold the record for the most goals scored in the North London derby by an individual players, with 9 goals each. Arsenal defender David O’Leary made 35 appearances in the North London derby, which is more than any other player.



George Bennett

My name is George Bennett, I'm 19-years-old and I'm the founder and administrator for GB Articles Football Blog. I've been writing from the age of 12-years-old and decided to create my own blog to spread my passion for the beautiful game. The blog was created in May 2016 and I've began to assemble a talented group of writers since April 2017. I mainly cover the Premier League, although I also base some reports on the Italian Serie A, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga and more!

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