Ranking the Players to Have Represented Arsenal and Tottenham
In this piece, we count down the very best to have played on both sides of the north London divide, naming a definitive top five. The assessments will largely focus on their performances in Arsenal and Spurs colours, although we’ll also be factoring in their other achievements in the world of football.
Only players with senior appearances will be considered, so Harry Kane’s brief spell in the Arsenal academy is not relevant.
On the next slide, we’ll be running through some of the players who didn’t make the top five before moving onto the selections. If you disagree with our list, tell us who you’d have picked in the comments section below.
The history of players turning out for both teams goes all the way back to the 1930s. Jimmy Brain was a prolific striker who bagged 139 goals in 232 Arsenal appearances before joining Tottenham in 1931. His record there was less impressive—he scored just 10 times in four years.
In the 1930s, George Hunt and Freddie Cox both moved in the opposite direction from Tottenham to Arsenal. Like Brain, Hunt had a far better record at one club than the other. He struck 137 times for Spurs but managed just three goals in a Gunners shirt. Cox was more consistent, playing around 100 times for each club and generally acquitting himself well.
Vic Groves was a stalwart of Arsenal in the 1950s and 1960s, but he had already made a few appearances for Spurs before joining the Gunners. In the early '60s, he was a team-mate of central defender Laurie Brown, who left Arsenal after three years with the club to join Tottenham.
In 1968, Spurs' Jimmy Robertson and Arsenal's David Jenkins were involved in a swap deal that took them to opposite ends of the Seven Sisters Road. Arguably, neither player repeated the success he had at his initial club.
Steve Walford made just one appearance for Tottenham, but he did mark it with a goal. However, he made a far greater impression at Arsenal, pocketing an FA Cup winner’s medal in 1979. Also with the club at that time was Kevin Stead, who made just 16 appearances in total for the two north London sides.
Rohan Ricketts was a graduate of Arsenal’s youth scheme who made only a solitary appearance at Highbury before joining Tottenham in 2002. After a bright start, he faded into relative obscurity. The same fate ultimately befell David Bentley, who squandered his talent at both clubs either side of a successful spell with Blackburn Rovers.
5. Willie Young
Willie Young's story is closely associated with that of Terry Neill, one of four men to have managed both Tottenham and Arsenal.
Neill signed Young twice—first for Spurs, with whom he spent two seasons. Then, in 1977, he followed Neill across north London to Highbury, where he became a much-loved regular over a period of four years.
Young, who was revered for his no-nonsense style, is perhaps best known for playing in three FA Cup finals with Arsenal. He would surely have been capped many times for Scotland had he not been banned from doing so following an indiscretion, reported by the Scotsman.
Big Willie is included in this list because he represented both clubs with distinction and consistency, and he managed to remain popular with both sets of supporters in his retirement.
4. Emmanuel Adebayor
Emmanuel Adebayor is not popular with fans of either Arsenal or Tottenham. However, there’s no disputing his talent. As a man who has played in a FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League, he has to make this list.
Adebayor was relatively unknown in England when Arsene Wenger plucked him from Monaco to be Thierry Henry’s understudy in 2006. However, when Henry eventually left for Barcelona, the Togolese frontman flourished. He scored 30 goals in Arsenal’s impressive 2007/08 campaign.
Unfortunately, his head was turned and he eventually moved to Manchester City in 2009. After a brief spell there, he found himself in the doghouse and looking for a move. Tottenham stepped in after a loan stay with Real Madrid in 2011, and Adebayor’s popularity among Arsenal fans plummeted yet further.
Despite enjoying some good periods of form with Spurs, particularly under Harry Redknapp and Tim Sherwood, the club released Adebayor earlier this season. Nevertheless, his strong scoring record—particularly in derby games—ensures he’s included in this list.
3. William Gallas
A man who has won two Premier League titles and played in a World Cup final was always going to feature on this list. However, it’s fair to say William Gallas did not show his best at either Arsenal or Tottenham.
Gallas joined the Gunners in 2006 as part of a swap deal with Chelsea involving Ashley Cole. His ill-fated spell there included a brief tenure as captain, which is remembered largely for his on-field tantrum at Birmingham City in 2008. When his contract expired in 2010, he moved to Tottenham. However, his three-year spell at White Hart Lane was dogged by several injury problems.
The France international represented London’s three biggest clubs in Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham—and captained two of them along the way.
2. Pat Jennings
Goalkeeper Pat Jennings is a legend at both Tottenham and Arsenal. He made 590 appearances for Spurs between 1964 and 1977, building a reputation as one of the world’s best shot-stoppers. Manager Keith Burkinshaw decided to let him leave at the age of 32, assuming he was approaching the end of his career.
However, Jennings had other ideas. He went on to play for a further eight years, racking up 327 appearances for Arsenal in the process. He became a hero at Highbury and played in three FA Cup finals as well as the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final.
After seemingly retiring in 1985, he rejoined Spurs in 1985 to help get fit for the following summer’s World Cup.
In February 1983, Jennings became the first player in English football to make 1,000 senior appearances. He also enjoyed a good international career, racking up an incredible 119 caps over more than two decades with Northern Ireland.
1. Sol Campbell
The most controversial move between Arsenal and Tottenham was also arguably the most successful.
When Arsenal signed Sol Campbell on a Bosman transfer in the summer of 2001, Spurs fans were furious. Not only had their captain strung them along by refusing to sign a new deal and running down his contract, but he had jumped ship to their hated rivals.
That led to some ugly scenes whenever Campbell returned to White Hart Lane. However, he’ll feel his move was justified—in his first season at Highbury he won the double and was a key component of the Invincibles team of 2003/04.
Campbell’s two spells at Arsenal made him a hero on one side of north London, even if he will never be truly forgiven on the other.