The best north London derbies of all time – ranked

The best north London derbies of all time – ranked

Arsenal and Tottenham enjoy one of the fiercest, most hotly contested and entertaining rivalries in the top flight, and the north London derby is a headline act on any Premier League fixture list.

The pair have gone toe to toe over 200 times since their first ever meeting back in 1896, throwing up a selection of classic clashes that vary in degrees of enjoyment depending on the fanbase that you belong to.

Here, 90min dips into the archives to take a look at the very best from over the years.

As all-time classics that the neutral could not take their eyes off go, we’ve not kicked off with a classic, admittedly.

But in terms of importance, there’s few north London derbies that will better this crucial final day of the season clash.

Arsenal travelled to Spurs knowing a win or a goalless draw would seal the Division One title for the first time in 18 years – but defeat or a score draw would see the trophy head to Leeds.

A nail-biting encounter ensued, and with the game still goalless after 88 minutes, Ray Kennedy popped up to head home the winner and clinch the league title in their rivals’ backyard. A pretty bleak experience for Spurs fans and one they would not want to see repeated. More on that later.

With League Cup penalty shootouts still a futuristic concept in 1987, Arsenal had forced a third leg of their semi final clash after coming from 2-0 down on aggregate to draw 2-2.

Spurs led once again in the third leg through a Clive Allen goal just after the hour mark, but Arsenal left it late to stage another comeback.

Substitute Ian Allinson levelled the scores eight minutes from time, before his deflected effort fell into the path of David Rocastle, who slotted home a 90th minute winner to send the Gunners into the final.

Gazza scored an iconic free kick in the 1991 FA Cup semi finalGazza scored an iconic free kick in the 1991 FA Cup semi final
Gazza scored an iconic free kick in the 1991 FA Cup semi final | Simon Bruty/Getty Images

The 1991 FA Cup semi final is famed for one of the competition’s all-time great goals courtesy of Paul Gascoigne.

The eccentric midfielder had undergone a hernia operation the month before, but the game was just five minutes old when he planted a stunning 30-yard free kick in David Seaman’s top left hand corner.

Gary Lineker grabbed a brace to send Spurs into the final – and they would go on to lift the famous trophy with victory over Nottingham Forest.

Robbie Keane netted as Spurs dismantled ArsenalRobbie Keane netted as Spurs dismantled Arsenal
Robbie Keane netted as Spurs dismantled Arsenal | CARL DE SOUZA/Getty Images

Both north London sides were in the midst of a silverware drought when Arsenal travelled to White Hart Lane for the second leg of their League Cup semi final clash in 2008.

A 1-1 draw at the Emirates a fortnight earlier left the tie tantalisingly poised, but Spurs turned in an electric performance to power themselves into the final at the expense of Arsenal’s fringe XI.

It was just the second time Spurs had beaten Arsenal since Arsene Wenger’s arrival in 1996, Jermaine Jenas played out of his skin and Nicklas Bendtner netted an absolute bullet header of an own goal. Can’t ask for much more from a derby, can you?

Spurs completed a superb comeback in 2011Spurs completed a superb comeback in 2011
Spurs completed a superb comeback in 2011 | ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

Arsenal were firmly in the Premier League title race when they visited White Hart Lane with six games of the season remaining of the 2010/11 season, but blew a two goal lead as Spurs stepped up their bid for a Champions League spot.

Theo Walcott saw his early goal cancelled out by Rafael van der Vaart, before strikes from Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie gave the Gunners a two goal cushion heading into the break.

But Tom Huddlestone scored on the stroke of half time and Van der Vaart equalised from the penalty spot in the second period as the spoils were shared in a pulsating 90 minutes.

Tottenham recorded a famous comeback victoryTottenham recorded a famous comeback victory
Tottenham recorded a famous comeback victory | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The 2010/11 season served up two stunning north London derbies, as Spurs staged their first of two remarkable comebacks to record their maiden win at the Emirates.

Arsenal were comfortably the better side in the first 45 and opened up a 2-0 half time lead thanks to goals from Nasri and Marouane Chamakh.

But Spurs came out all guns blazing in the second period and a cool Gareth Bale finish and a Van der Vaart spot kick saw them level with 23 minutes remaining following a bizarre Cesc Fabregas handball. Younes Kaboul completed the comeback five minutes from time as he headed home Van der Vaart’s free kick.

Arsenal clinched the title at Tottenham for a second timeArsenal clinched the title at Tottenham for a second time
Arsenal clinched the title at Tottenham for a second time | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Remember when we mentioned clinching the league title on your rivals home soil? Probably a unique, once in a lifetime occasion, right?

Unbeaten Arsenal needed a draw to be crowned Premier League champions when they travelled to White Hart Lane in April 2004, and the Gunners raced into a two goal lead through Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires.

However, Spurs fought back, with Jamie Redknapp on target before Robbie Keane netted a late equaliser from the spot. But they left it too late to find a third in an attempt to become the first team to inflict a league defeat on their rivals. Arsenal were crowned Premier League champions and would go on to finish the season unbeaten.

Arsenal ran out 3-2 winners in 1988Arsenal ran out 3-2 winners in 1988
Arsenal ran out 3-2 winners in 1988 | Simon Bruty/Getty Images

The 1988 north London derby served up five goals in the space of 12 breathless first-half minutes. Imagine if you’d nipped out to the toilet and there’d been a queue.

Chris Waddle quickly cancelled out Nigel Winterburn’s opener, before goals from Brian Marwood and Alan Smith saw Arsenal open up a two goal lead.

Gazza then opened up his Spurs account, losing his right boot in a challenged on the edge of the area as he raced through on goal and poking past John Lukic at the second time of asking via his floppy, white right sock.

Pires hit the winner in 2004Pires hit the winner in 2004
Pires hit the winner in 2004 | Ian Walton/Getty Images

Tottenham’s 2003/04 Premier League clash with Arsenal was a modest 1-1 at half time.

Thierry Henry had cancelled out Noureddine Naybet’s volley in first half stoppage time, before a chaotic 45 minutes ensued.

Lauren and Patrick Vieira put the Gunners 3-1 ahead on the hour mark, Jermain Defoe halved the deficit one minute later, before Freddie Ljungberg restored the two goal cushion. A Ledley King header pulled Spurs back into contention once more with 16 minutes remaining, Robert Pires then netted Arsenal’s fifth, before Freddie Kanoute made it 5-4 in the 88th minute.

Seven goals in 33 pulsating second half minutes. And not even good enough for top spot.

Bentley opened the scoring with a worldie Bentley opened the scoring with a worldie
Bentley opened the scoring with a worldie | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Fittingly, Hot n Cold by Katy Perry entered the top 10 in the UK charts in the same week that Arsenal and Tottenham played out one of the most chaotic, unpredictable and glorious matches in Premier League history. Up then down indeed, Katy.

Tottenham had led through David Bentley’s iconic, long range volley, before Mikael Silvestre headed home an Arsenal equaliser.

William Gallas gave Arsenal the lead inside the first two minutes of the second half, before Emmanuel Adebayor, Darren Bent and Robin van Persie all found the net in the space of six minutes.

Arsenal’s 4-2 lead remained intact until the 89th minute when Jenas curled home a fabulous goal, and Aaron Lennon poked home in the fourth minute of stoppage time to dramatically rescue an unlikely point.

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