North London Derby: History of Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur and Top Scorers in the Famous Fixture

North London Derby: History of Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur and Top Scorers in the Famous Fixture

The North London derby between Arsenal and Spurs is one of the most highly-anticipated fixtures of the Premier League calendar, and has a rich 136-year history.

It’s a game that almost always produces fireworks – unlike other famous derbies, such as the Merseyside and Manchester derbies, it’s very rare that you’ll see a North London derby that is anything less than scintillating. We’ve seen title deciders, high-scoring stalemates and crushing defeats in North London derbies of the past – and that’s just the tip of this particular iceberg.

The fixture has been graced by bona fide legends over the years. Spurs have had the likes of Jimmy Greaves, Paul Gascoigne and Harry Kane, while Arsenal have boasted stars such as Tony Adams, Ian Wright and Thierry Henry.

Here we take a look at the history of this storied fixture, as well as covering the all-important question of which club has won the most derbies, and counting down the top goalscorers.

When was the first North London derby?

The first-ever match between Arsenal (then known as Royal Arsenal) and Tottenham took place all the way back in 1887. Things didn’t exactly go according to plan: the game was called off after just 15 minutes due to low visibility. Yet at that point in the game three goals had already been scored, with Spurs 2-1 up.

The first completed game between the two sides took place the following year. It was another match mired in controversy, because Spurs were only able to field nine players. Unsurprisingly, the Gunners dominated the outing, winning by a score of 6-2.

Despite this, the rivalry itself did not truly begin until 1913, when Arsenal moved to Highbury. They situated themselves just four miles away from Spurs’ home ground, White Hart Lane.

Due to this proximity, the two clubs began competing for territory and fans, and a rivalry soon formed. Their first game after Arsenal’s move to Highbury would take place in 1914, and it was a dominant display by the Gunners, who swept aside their newly-found rivals by a score of 5-1 – despite being in a division below them at the time.

Much later, the first game between the two sides in the Premier League era took place on 12 December 1992 and was held at White Hart Lane. Spurs would walk away with the victory, with the only goal of the game scored by Paul Allen. Notably, Spurs did the double over their rivals this season, as they went on to beat Arsenal 3-1 in the reverse fixture.

Have Arsenal or Spurs won more derbies?

As things stand, Arsenal have won the highest number of North London derbies – and by a considerable margin. At the time of writing, Arsenal and Spurs have played each other 193 times in competitive fixtures.

The Gunners have won 81 of these 193 games, with Tottenham winning a mere 61. Meanwhile, 51 of their meetings have ended in draws.

On top of this, Arsenal have also scored more goals against their rivals in this fixture. The Gunners have found the back of the net 295 times, while Spurs have scored 256 goals against Arsenal.

Since 1950, there has only been one season – the 1997/78 First Division campaign – where the two teams have not been in the same league as each other.

Which players have played for both teams?

Crossing the divide in rivalries is something that is often frowned upon, if not worse. Nevertheless, there are a slew of players who have played for both teams during their careers.

Perhaps the most notable example of this happening between Arsenal and Spurs was the infamous defection of Sol Campbell. He was Tottenham’s captain at the time, but allowed his contract to expire so he could join the Gunners on a free transfer – he would go on to be a cornerstone of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ season in 2003/04.

Emmanuel Adebayor also tasted success for both clubs. He initially played for Arsenal, before leaving the club to join Manchester City, and after a brief loan spell at Real Madrid, he made the jump to Tottenham – much to the chagrin of Gunners fans.

The rest of the players who have played for both clubs are as follows: Jimmy Brain, Laurie Brown, David Jenkins, Rohan Ricketts, David Bentley, William Gallas, George Hunt, Freddie Cox, Vic Groves, Jimmy Robertson, Steve Walford, Willie Young and Pat Jennings.

Who are the top goalscorers in the North London derby?

The all-time top goalscorer in the North London derby is Harry Kane – not only is he the top scorer in the Premier League era, he is also the top scorer in this fixture of all time, with an incredible 14 goals in total.

As you can see from the chart below, it’s going to take some effort in the future to topple the England captain from the top spot, even if he does leave the club this summer.

In second place is another Spurs legend – Bobby Smith. The Yorkshireman, who also played for Chelsea over the course of his career, scored ten goals in North London derbies.

The first Arsenal player in the ranking is one they may not want to be reminded of – Emmanuel Adebayor. He scored ten goals in North London derbies between the Gunners and Tottenham – but Arsenal fans will never forget him for his infamous knee slide celebration while playing for Manchester City.

Another of Arsenal’s top goalscorers in the rivalry is someone you may not expect – Robert Pires. While Pires was an excellent footballer with exquisite ability on the ball, he wasn’t an out and out striker. Nevertheless, during his time at Arsenal, Pires scored eight goals in North London derbies for the Gunners. Additionally, while Pires was in the team, Arsenal never lost against their bitter rivals.

Pires isn’t the only Arsenal player to have scored eight goals against Spurs – if we wind back the clock a bit, you’ll find that Alan Sunderland also found the back of the net eight times against Tottenham in North London derby games.

Below these two are Gareth Bale, Thierry Henry, Robin Van Persie and Son Heung-min, who have all scored five North London derby goals in total.

The player who has appeared in the highest number of North London derbies is David O’Leary – during his 20-year stint with the Gunners, he played against Tottenham a total of 35 times. He also holds the record for the most Arsenal appearances in history, with 722 to his name.

Jimmy Johnson

Jimmy Johnson

I have worked for NationalWorld since August 2021 - before then, I was a freelance journalist, writing for numerous publications. From 2023, I have been a part of the ever-growing NationalWorld Sports Network.