Arsenal vs. Tottenham: Top 10 North London Derby Classics

Mohamed Al-Hendy@Mo_HendyCorrespondent IFebruary 23, 2012

Arsenal vs. Tottenham: Top 10 North London Derby Classics

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    This weekend, we'll be getting part two of one of the best football derbies in the world: The North London Derby.

    The two teams playing in this derby, Tottenham and Arsenal, have had very different fortunes over the past couple of weeks.

    Tottenham destroyed a good Newcastle team, 5-0, but was halted in the FA Cup by a resolute Stevenage side that forced a replay at White Hart Lane after picking up a 0-0 result.

    Arsenal on the other hand found themselves (effectively) eliminated from both of their cup competitions. They suffered a disheartening 4-0 loss to AC Milan in the Champions League at the San Siro, then found their misery compounded by a tough loss to Sunderland in the FA Cup.

    Jermain Defoe has already started up the banter for the game by noting that Arsenal will be under greater pressure to pick up a result.

    It's hard to disagree with Defoe's assertion. Tottenham will obviously want to continue shoring up third place and chasing the title (as outside contenders), but Arsenal need this win to get a stronger hold on fourth place.

    Arsenal's season is already regarded by many as a failure, but it will be a disaster if the Gunners lose out on fourth as well to one of Chelsea, Liverpool or even Newcastle.

    Even though Robin van Persie has been told he won't be sold, we could see a transfer saga develop if Arsenal also fail to secure Champions League qualification this season.

    With all that in mind, let's look at the 10 best North London Derby classics in English football history.

1995: Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham

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    This game was billed as the "Battle of the Super-strikers," with both Jurgen Klinsmann and Ian Wright on course for 30 goals in the 1995 Premier League season. The Arsenal legend was on 29 goals then, while Klinsmann was slightly behind on 27.

    Both men scored for their sides as the final score ended 1-1, but many chances were missed by both sides and the game was open from start to finish.

    Teddy Sheringham, still vehemently hated by Arsenal fans, should have won the game for Spurs but missed an open header, while Ian Wright could have had a hat trick with better finishing.

    1995 was also the last year when Tottenham finished above Arsenal in the league table (though that's set to change at the end of the season).

1971: Tottenham 0-1 Arsenal

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    There's nothing crueler in football than having your fiercest rivals secure the league title against you in your home stadium.

    But that's what Arsenal managed to do against Tottenham in 1971. Going into the match, Arsenal needed a win or a goal-less draw to overtake Leeds in the table. Otherwise, they'd miss out on the title.

    The game remained goal-less until the 88th minute, when Ray Kennedy scored for Arsenal to secure all three points.

    Had Tottenham equalized, Leeds would've won the title, but they didn't and Arsenal went on to win the double (with the FA Cup) that season.

1987: Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal

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    This match was the culmination of an epic League Cup semifinal encounter that took 270 minutes to complete.

    The first leg ended in a 1-0 Spurs victory at Highbury, and the second a 2-1 defeat, so another match was needed to determine who would meet Liverpool in the final.

    A toss of the coin decided that it was to be played at White Hart Lane, but Spurs failed to take advantage of playing at home and lost out to a last-gasp goal from David Rocastle.

2010: Tottenham 2–1 Arsenal

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    Tottenham finally managed to beat their bitter rivals in a home-league game for the first time since 1999 in 2010.

    Both teams desperately wanted and needed to win this game. Arsenal needed a win to keep its dying title hopes alive, while Spurs needed a win to keep alive dreams of a first voyage into the Champions League, especially with a difficult tie against Chelsea coming up next.

    For the first time in recent history, Tottenham looked like the better team from start to finish.

    Gareth Bale showed signs of what he could do with a superb run at the Arsenal defence, as well as a finish of equal quality. At the other end, Heurelho Gomes kept Tottenham’s lead intact, dispelling questions over his quality as the last line of defense (for the time being anyway).

    This game is also famous for Danny Rose's infamous rocket opener—a strong contender for Goal of the Season at the time. Watch a hilarious reaction to the goal from a cat here.

2008: Tottenham 5-1 Arsenal

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    This was a day to remember for Spurs, as they dismantled Arsenal in a 5-1 win in the second leg of their Carling Cup semifinal.

    The 5-1 win in January was only Wenger's second loss to the neighbours since he joined Arsenal in 1996, and it was also Spurs' biggest victory over their old rivals in 25 years.

    Juande Ramos may have left White Hart Lane with his tail between his legs after an awful league start in 2008, but Spurs supporters will always have a special place for him in their hearts after the Spaniard masterminded this victory.

    Jermaine Jenas struck first in the third minute, before Nicklas Bendtner's own goal left the Gunners 2-0 down at halftime.

    By the time Emmanuel Adebayor scored in the 70th minute, Robbie Keane and Aaron Lennon had already put Spurs 4-1 ahead, and Steed Malbranque scored at the death to break complete the rout.

1978: Arsenal 5-0 Tottenham & 1983: Tottenham 5-0 Arsenal

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    It's probably only fair to mention these two matches in conjunction with each other, so that's what I'm doing.

    In 1978, Arsenal hammered Spurs, with Liam Brady's magic taking over the game for the Gunners. Alan Sunderland bagged a hat trick, while Liam Brady and Frank Stapleton scored two brilliant individual goals as well.

    Liam Brady's was particularly special, and has been preserved through the years while the other highlights from that time are much harder to find.

    In 1983 though, Spurs got revenge, through Chris Houghton, Alan Brazil and Mark Falco, scoring a total of five goals past their rivals.

    Despite this, Arsenal still managed to finish two points above Tottenham in the league table.

1991: Tottenham 3-1 Arsenal

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    An FA Cup semifinal venue for the first time, Wembley provided a fitting setting for one of the most unforgettable North London derbies—a match that will forever be remembered as Paul Gascoigne’s semifinal.

    The mercurial Spurs midfielder underwent a hernia operation in the previous month that had only allowed him 60 minutes of football before the clash, but he came back with a bang.

    With only five minutes gone, the inspirational Geordie powered a 30-yard free kick into David Seaman’s top corner.

    Gary Lineker then netted a brace and Spurs were through to a final in which they would beat Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest, despite Gascoigne being stretchered off with a career-threatening knee injury.

2004: Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal

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    Remember that thing I said about there being nothing crueler in football than having your fiercest rivals secure the league title against you in your home stadium?

    Yea, it's happened twice to Spurs now.

    In a season that saw Arsenal at their most imperious, Spurs would have relished being the only team to beat Arsene Wenger’s men.

    But when the Invincibles visited White Hart Lane in April, Arsenal only needed a draw to secure the Premiership crown on their rivals’ stomping ground—just as they had in 1971.

    They got it, but only just. Arsenal went up 2-0 after three minutes through a typically fluid counterattack goal, goalscorer Patrick Vieira then turning provider for Robert Pires’ clipped finish.

    But a goal from Jamie Redknapp kickstarted a spirited Spurs fightback and a late Robbie Keane penalty levelled the scores.

    However, the injury-time winner the Lane craved was not forthcoming and the Tottenham faithful were ultimately forced to either scurry home or look on in envy as Vieira & Co. celebrated the perfect end to a magnificent season.

2004: Tottenham 4-5 Arsenal

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    This nine-goal thriller holds the record for being the highest scoring North London derby. The sort of match designed to offend Alan Hansen, it was mocked by Jose Mourinho as a "hockey score."

    Tottenham dominated the first half with Noureddine Naybet’s close-range volley opening the scoring and Jens Lehmann forced into several good saves, but a Thierry Henry strike in first-half injury time inspired a different Arsenal performance in the second period.

    A Lauren penalty took the Gunners to three on the hour, and though Jermaine Defoe and Ledley King responded to strikes from Patrick Vieira and Freddie Ljungberg respectively, a clever sleight-of-foot and smart finish from Robert Pires restored Arsenal’s two-goal advantage.

    The shambolic defending continued, however, and the Gunners allowed Freddie Kanoute to net and provide a nail-biting last few minutes for nerve-shattered Arsenal fans.

2008: Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham

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    2008 arguably saw the greatest Arsenal/Spurs derby ever, in terms of excitement anyway.

    Like Arsenal's 5-4 win, the defending in this game was very sloppy—Arsenal really should not have allowed Tottenham to get back into the game after going up 3-1. But the excitement kept going all 90 minutes long.

    David Bentley set the tone with an early volley as stunning for its outrageous opportunism and its execution.

    Spotting Manuel Almunia marginally off his line, Bentley hammered the ball from just outside the centre circle which, backpedalling furiously, the Spanish keeper could only just paw at in vain.

    The goal paved the way for an incredible 90 minutes of entertaining exchanges and giggle-inducing goalkeeping.

    Heurelho Gomes’ aerial eccentricities confused his defenders and delighted the Arsenal team, who twice headed in from set-pieces.

    Almunia was as guilty for Spurs’ second, patting out a simple rebound chance for Darren Bent.

    But it was the final moments of the game that defied belief.

    With Arsenal up 4-2, Jermaine Jenas took advantage of Gael Clichy’s slip to curl home what seemed destined to be a consolation.

    But as the game headed into the 95th minute, Luka Modric attempted to repeat Bentley’s first-half feat, and sub Aaron Lennon prodded home the rebound off the post to leave millions gawping in bewilderment at what had just unfolded.

Share Your Favorites!

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    Those are my 10 (or technically 11) favorite North London derbies. But they're just 10 (or 11) of many. What are your favorite North London derbies?

    I've included the clip to the left as an honorable mention. It was a great game full of drama and excitement; but so were all the ones included on this list too—I just couldn't find space for it on the list.

    Leave your favorites in the comments section below. Video links for North London derbies I didn't mention would be great so we can re-watch them here.

    While you're at it, share your thoughts on this weekend's NLD, and maybe even throw a prediction in too.

    Thanks for reading.