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What is the North London Derby?

The North London Derby is the meeting between North London-based clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in England. Since fans of both sides consider the opposition as their rivals, it is considered to be a derby. The North London Derby is said to be one of the fiercest derbies in the whole world of football.

There have been 195 North London derbies in history including 174 matches in the Premier League. Arsenal have been the dominant side for most of the North London derby rivalry and they have won 82 matches compared to the 62 that Spurs have won.

Arsenal have also won many more domestic titles with 45 trophies in their cabinet compared to the 21 that Spurs have won in their history. However, Spurs have been more successful at the continental level winning three European trophies, one more than Arsenal.

The current captain of Tottenham Hotspur Harry Kane is also the leading goal-scorer in the North London derby. Without further ado, let’s discuss the history of the North London derby and footballers who have played for both sides.

North London Derby: History and how it became a rivalry

CompetitionMatches playedArsenal winsDrawsSpurs winsArsenal goalsSpurs goals
FA Cup640295
League Cup147342119
Community Shield101000

The first match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur was actually played as a friendly fixture on 19 November 1887. Arsenal were then located in area called Plumstead, which was then a part of Kent but is now in Greater London. They were also known as Royal Arsenal during that period.

The match was played at Spurs’ training ground at Tottenham Marshes in North London for the first time. However, it ended up getting abandoned 15 minutes before it was supposed to end because of darkness and when Spurs were still leading 2-1.

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The first completed match between the two teams was played the next February at Arsenal’s home ground in Plumstead. Tottenham Hotspur were beaten 6-2 as they could only field nine players in that match.

A proper rivalry actually grew between the two North London teams when Arsenal decided to move from their former base at the Manor Ground in Plumstead to the Arsenal Stadium in Highbury which was just four miles away from Tottenham Hotspur’s then-stadium called White Hart Lane.

This move was actually resented and opposed by Tottenham and their fans as they considered Highbury to be their territory in north London. Following the move, Arsenal became Tottenham Hotspur’s nearest neighbours and it ended up brewing an actual local rivalry between the two teams as well as the two sets of fans.

The Gunners and Spurs first came face to face as North London rivals War Relief Fund friendly on 22 August 1914 at White Hart Lane. Arsenal were then in the second division and Tottenham were in the English top flight (in the Premier League), Arsenal ended up defeating them 5-1.

The rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur escalated and grew much more intense in 1919 after World War I. The first division in England was to be expanded by two more teams and the League then decided to hold a meeting between the existing clubs to decided which two clubs would be added on the basis of a vote. 19th-placed Chelsea, who would have been relegated that season, were the first to stay as they won one of the two spots by means of the vote.

While the second spot in the expanded Premier League could have been awarded to 20th-placed Tottenham or Barnsley, who had finished third in the Second Division in England, Arsenal, along with four other clubs, also decided to bid for the second spot in the English first division, despite finishing sixth in Division Two.

Arsenal had received an endorsement from the League president as well as the chairman of Liverpool John McKenna given that they had been a member of the League for a longer time, Arsenal received 18 votes, more than the eight that Spurs got and were thus, elected to the First Division.

The decision caused fury and outrage among Tottenham Hotspur supporters who believed that Arsenal chairman Sir Henry Norris used shady tactics and underhanded dealings in order to curry more favour and gain more votes. However, nothing of this sort had ever been proven.

Suffering a setback, Tottenham Hotspur soon found themselves back in the English first division after winning the 1919-1920 Second Division title. This led to North London derbies being contested more frequently which grew into the kind of bitter and intense matches that they became in the modern era.

The very first fully competitive North London derby match after Arsenal’s 1913 move to north London was a First Division match that ended 2–1 in favour of Tottenham, on 15 January 1921 at White Hart Lane.

Fans involvement in the North London Derby

Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have a multi-ethnic fanbase because of the immense popularity of London as a cultural hotpot of various religions and diverse ethnicity.

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Arsenal fans call themselves ‘Gooners’ which is derived from the club’s nickname ‘Gunners.’ The Gunners nickname is itself a reference to Arsenal’s history and its origins as an ammunition factory sports team.

Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur call themselves ‘yids.’ Spurs had historically received significant support from the Jewish communities in North and East London and had great number of Jewish fans once upon a time. However, they no longer possess a great amount of Jewish fans as it has dwindled over the years but Tottenham Hotspur supporters are still subjected to anti-semitic chants due to their history.

This is why Tottenham supporters started to call themselves ‘yids’ or ‘yiddos’ in order to take a sense of pride and belonging in their history and take the sting out of the chants. However, the usage of both terms remains controversial in today’s political climate.

Regular online polls conducted between the two fanbases often suggest that they view each other as the most fierce rival in England.

Top goal scorers in the North London Derby

Harry KaneTottenham Hotspur14
Emmanuel AdebayorArsenal, Tottenham Hotspur10
Robert PiresArsenal8
Gareth BaleTottenham Hotspur5
Thierry HenryArsenal5
Robin van PersieArsenal5
Son Heung-minTottenham Hotspur5
Pierre-Emerick AubameyangArsenal4
Freddie LjungbergArsenal4
Rafael van der VaartTottenham Hotspur4
Patrick VieiraArsenal4
Theo WalcottArsenal4
Ian WrightArsenal4

Tottenham Hotspur Harry Kane is the leading goal-scorer in the North London derbies with 14 goals across all competitions. From the Arsenal camp, Robert Pires is their highest goal-scorer with eight goals in 11 games.


Who won the most recent North London derby between the two sides?

Arsenal won the most recent North London derby after defeating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the Premier League in January 2023.

Who is the leading goal-scorer for Arsenal in the North London derbies?

Robert Pires holds the record for being the leading goal-scorer for Arsenal in North London derbies. He has scored eight goals in 11 appearances.


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