Perhaps not the biggest, but probably the fiercest derby in English football is played between London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham. The beginning of this rivalry dates back to 1887, when the first friendly match was played, which had to be stopped due to darkness 15 minutes before the end. The reason? The players of the visiting team were late for the start. At the time of the break, Tottenham led 2:1. The first league derby was played on 4 December 1909 when Arsenal won 1:0.
Tottenham Hotspur was founded as FC Hotspur in 1882 and competed in the Southern League from 1986 until 1908 when it was relegated to the English Second Division. During that period they became the only non-league club to win the FA Cup, in 1901. They moved to the White Hart Lane stadium in 1899.
Arsenal was founded in south-east London as Dyal Square in 1886 but changed its name to Royal Arsenal soon after, but it didn’t stick for long either, so in 1891 it got a new name, Vulich Arsenal, which it remained until it moved to Highbury, all a few kilometers away from Tottenham’s White Hart Lane. That’s when the real rivalry between these two teams began.
The first “real” North London derby was played on August 22, 1914. Arsenal won 1:5, although at that moment they were playing in the second tier of the competition, and Tottenham in the first division.
The rivalry escalated in 1919 when it was decided to expand the First Division from 20 to 22 teams. One place was occupied by Chelsea, the nineteenth-placed player in the First Division from the previous season, and Tottenham, last in the first division, Barnsley, third in the Second Division, and four other second-division teams, among them Arsenal, were candidates for the second. In the end, the Gunners were chosen for that position, despite the fact that they finished the previous season only as the sixth team in the second division! It is interesting that this really bothered the fans and the management of Tottenham, although they themselves were elected to the second division 11 years earlier as the seventh-placed team of the Southern League, to the detriment of the champions Queens Park Rangers. However, the injustice was somewhat rectified the following season, when Tottenham returned to the top flight as champions of Division Two.
This rivalry is one of the most constant in England, since 1950 the clubs have not played in the same league only once (in the 1977/78 season, Tottenham played in another league). There are a large number of significant matches, but we will single out the one at White Hart Lane from the 1970/71 season when Arsenal needed a goalless draw for the title. In the end, the result was 1:0 for the Gunners, who celebrated their eighth championship title at the stadium of their biggest rival.
A similar situation occurred in the 2003/04 season when Arsenal also needed a draw to secure the title. With the result 2:2 at the end, history repeated itself, and the Gunners again celebrated the title of champion of England at White Hart Lane.
Spurs are most proud of the 1991 FA Cup semi-final at Wembley when they knocked out then-champions Arsenal. The whole game was marked by Paul Gascoigne and his goal from a free kick is still considered one of the most beautiful goals at Wembley.