The Best Arsenal XI of the North London Derby

Written by Josh Andrews

April 26, 2020

This weekend would’ve marked the 56th North London Derby in the Premier League era. Arsenal vs Tottenham has always been a special date in the calendar for everyone involved with both clubs, and the rivalry is arguably the fiercest that London has to offer. The derby has often been an entertaining affair and there is no clear superiority from either team when looking at their head to head record. 

That said, there certainly have been periods that have favoured one team or the other. Arsenal certainly had the upper hand against Tottenham in the early 2000’s but Tottenham’s own record in the Premier League against Arsenal was fairly good before the Arsene Wenger era. 

So which Arsenal players have got the best Premier League record against Tottenham? Looking at results, individual performances and contributions, this is the Arsenal XI that would comfortably keep Tottenham in their place as the second-best team in North London. 

GK: Jens Lehmann

Jens Lehmann made his debut for Arsenal in 2003 and spent 5 seasons at the club before returning to Germany. He has a total of 148 appearances for the club, including 8 Premier League derbies against Tottenham. He has an undefeated record of 4 wins and 4 draws, conceding 11 goals and getting 2 clean sheets. It’s not the most outstanding record, but he did give Arsenal fans an incredible moment to laugh at in his second North London Derby. After conceding a foul in the box and the subsequent penalty in the 90th minute, Tottenham players went crazy with their celebrations, with Mauricio Taricco pulling his hamstring during the process. At full time the Arsenal players, led by Thierry Henry, celebrated winning the league at the home of their biggest rivals.

RB: Lauren 

Lauren spent 7 seasons at Arsenal, picking up 2 Premier League titles. He also won a Gold Medal at the 2000 Olympics and is considered an icon for the Gunners. He made 159 appearances for Arsenal, including 9 Premier League derbies against Tottenham. His record of 5 wins and 4 draws is also undefeated, and though there is another right-back with more victories against Tottenham, Lauren also has the distinction of scoring twice in the North London Derby. He scored the winning goal in a 2-1 victory that saw Arsenal close in on the title in 2002, and the other in the 5-4 thriller at White Hart Lane – both goals from the penalty spot.

CB: Tony Adams

Tony Adams is an Arsenal legend, a one club man who won multiple honours at Arsenal, including 2 First Division titles, 2 Premier League titles and 3 FA Cups. He made 504 appearances for the club, including 15 Premier League appearances in the North London Derby. His record is 6 wins, 5 draws and 3 losses, which is somewhat less impressive than most on this list. However, his record does look a lot better on paper when you compare it to those of other Arsenal defenders during his era and the era that succeeded him during Arsene Wenger’s tenure. He also scored a decisive goal in his first derby in the Wenger era, which puts him ahead of the majority of the other Arsenal centre-backs in this squad. 

CB: Kolo Toure

Kolo Touré is a somewhat divisive figure amongst Arsenal fans. Some remember him as an integral part of Arsenal’s “invincibles” side. Like Adams before him, Touré was a more attack-minded defender which often led to some questionable moments. He made 225 total appearances for the Gunners and 12 North London Derbies in the Premier League. He was undefeated in those matches, with 6 wins and 6 draws. He also managed to score in a 2-2 draw in April 2007, a season where Tottenham ultimately finished 5th and Arsenal 4th. This makes him the first choice centre-back for Arsenal in this team.

LB: Ashley Cole

Labelled a “Judas” by some but ultimately respected by most, Ashley Cole is still arguably the best left-back Arsenal have ever had. His transfer to Chelsea in 2006 certainly tainted his reputation amongst the Arsenal fan-base but his ability on the pitch spoke for itself. His record in the North London Derby is undefeated, earning 5 wins and 3 draws against Tottenham, and contributed to clean sheets in three of those games. Whilst he has no attacking returns to show for it, his defensive contribution cannot be understated and having the highest win percentage of any Arsenal player in this team clearly shows why he deserves his spot. 

RM: Theo Walcott

In Theo Walcott’s Arsenal debut he got his first assist for the club. He went on to score 65 goals and get 45 assists in his Premier League career for Arsenal before joining Everton in 2018. He has a particularly good record against Tottenham in the Premier League too, scoring 4 goals and getting 4 assists in his 8 matches against them. He won 4 of the 8 North London Derbies, and he contributed 2 goals in both of Arsenal’s 5-2 victories against Tottenham. He also appeared to take pleasure in gesturing “2-0” to Tottenham when leaving the pitch during an FA Cup tie between the clubs. 

CM: Patrick Vieira

Patrick Vieira is considered by many to be one of the best in his generation, a dynamic bulldozer of a player who would dominate almost any midfield. In his Arsenal playing career he made 279 Premier League appearances, scored 29 goals.and assisted 23. In the North London Derby he won 9 of the 18 matches he played in, more than anybody else in this list. He scored 4 and assisted 3 and a number of these contributions had significance towards big results, including the first goal in the 2-2 in 2004 where Arsenal won the title. Arsenal only lost to Tottenham once in all competitions during Vieira’s 9 year spell at the club and Vieira’s dominance in the midfield was arguably a large part of that success. Arsenal fans have been craving a midfielder in the mould of Vieira since his departure in 2005, so it seems only fitting to have him in this squad.

CM: Cesc Fabregas

Before, there was Özil. Before that, there was Cazorla, but the original creator in the Arsenal midfield after the “invincible” era was Cesc Fabregas. In 212 Premier league appearances for the Gunners, he scored 35 and assisted 72. He won 6 of his 12 North London Derbies, and often saved big performances for these games. His 2 goals and 11 assists in these games means he ranks top in goal contributions for any Arsenal player in the Premier League during this fixture. His best game in this fixture was in September 2007, where he scored and got 2 assists in a 3-1 victory at White Hart Lane. Even joining Chelsea can’t take that away from him.

LM: Robert Pires

Robert Pires signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2000, hoping to fill the void left by Marc Overmars. In his second North London Derby, he wore his number 7 shirt on the same day that club icon, David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle died. He then scored the opener in a 2-0 victory for Arsenal. With 63 goals and 34 assists in his 6 year Arsenal career, he is also the player with the most Premier League goals for Arsenal in the North London Derby. His 7 goals and 1 assist make him an easy choice for this team, as does his undefeated record of 5 wins and 6 draws. Rocky would be proud.

ST: Emmanuel Adebayor

“But he played for Tottenham too!”..

It doesn’t matter. Emmanuel Adebayor is far from a club hero, but his performances for Arsenal in the North London Derby speak for themselves. His 6 goals and 2 assists in 7 games are nothing to scoff at. He also has the distinction of being the only player not in the “invincible” squad to be undefeated for Arsenal against Tottenham. Fans might remember Adebayor for his inconsistent form and perceived poor attitude, but he was always fired up in the North London Derby. He got so fired up for his second derby in Tottenham colours that he saw red in the 18th minute, in a game Arsenal won 5-2. Never mind the 2 goals you scored for them. They don’t matter.

ST: Robin Van Persie

“No Thierry Henry, what is this nonsense?”..

It was a close decision. Robin Van Persie is another player who’s far from popular in the Arsenal fan-base, but he did end up with 5 goals and 4 assists for Arsenal in the North London Derby, which is a better record than most Arsenal players in the Premier League and he often looked like he was carrying a far weaker team to these big victories. He featured in 6 wins out of 14 appearances against Tottenham, and has more goal contributions than both Adebayor and Henry in this fixture, making him the final player in this best XI.

Bench: Wojciech Sczezsny, Bacary Sagna, Gilberto Silva, Freddie Ljungberg, Thierry Henry

Photo: Ronnie Mcdonald (2010)



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