During his reign as Arsenal boss, Arsene Wenger has faced numerous must win, or must not lose, North London derbies, and this Saturday’s fixture at Wembley is no different.
A win for the Gunners will move them just one point behind their fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur, tightening the race for the top four this season.
With the form of both teams, and the excitement surrounding recent signings who could make their derby debut, a win for Wenger would be one of many famous triumphs in this historic fixture.
Welcome to North London - Arsenal 3 Tottenham 1, November 1996
Winless in their last five attempts in the fixture, Arsenal headed into Wenger’s first derby hoping for a win to turn the tide, and that’s exactly what they got.
Ian Wright opened the scoring from the penalty spot at Highbury after half an hour, however, the visitors drew level after 57 minutes when Andy Sinton’s scuffed shot hit the post and bounced in off the back of Gunners keeper John Lukic.
It seemed the points were destined to be shared, however, 'Mr Arsenal' Tony Adams made sure that wasn't the case as he volleyed home Dennis Bergkamp’s flicked set up with three minutes to go. The win was sealed by Bergkamp after Wright bamboozled a Tottenham defender and delivered a deep cross.
The Dutchman’s first touch inside was as exquisite as always, followed by a powerful finish which secured Wenger’s first three points in the North London Derby.
Spurs fail to halt invisible charge - Arsenal 2 Tottenham 1, November 2003
The 2003/04 invincible season is one of the most historic in the history of Arsenal Football Club, and in November of that season, the first North London derby threatened to halt the Gunners charge towards invincibility.
Tottenham took the lead before some of the home fans had even found their seats, with Darren Anderton tapping home from close range five minutes in.
Tottenham striker Helder Postiga had two massive opportunities to extend his sides’ advantage, however, he missed both one-on-one’s with home keeper Jens Lehmann, one which led to tempers flaring.
As the second half began the Gunners still struggled to create clear-cut chances, but their pressure eventually told as Thierry Henry beat the offside trap and closed in on goal. His shot was saved by Spurs’ keeper Kasey Keller, however, Robert Pires’ perfectly timed run allowed him to slam the ball home at the far post with just over 20 minutes to go.
Ten minutes later the comeback was complete, as Nwankwo Kanu found all the time in the world inside the Tottenham half to spread the ball to Freddie Ljungberg on the edge of the penalty area.
After a drop of the shoulder, the Swedes’ resulting shot took a huge deflection off Steven Carr and looped over the helpless Keller in goal.
It wasn’t the most exciting edition of the derby, and the goals within it were not of the highest quality, but the importance of the victory in extending Arsenal’s unbeaten run that season, then to 12 games, makes this one of the most crucial North London derby victories under Wenger’s tenure.
Goals Galore - Tottenham 4 Arsenal 5, November 2004
The highest scoring derby in the Premier League era, this game is iconic as it featured nine different goal scorers. After a goalless opening half an hour, the match came to life as Noureddine Naybet volleyed home from seven yards out in the 37th minute.
In first-half stoppage time, Henry coolly slotted home the equaliser, and the lead was Arsenal’s ten minutes into the second half, as Lauren stepped up and converted from the penalty spot. The third came after an hour as Patrick Vieira bullied his way through the Tottenham back line in their half and finished past home keeper Paul Robinson.
A stunning solo goal from Jermaine Defoe cut the lead just a minute later, however Arsenal exploited hesitation in the Tottenham defence and regained the two-goal lead thanks to Ljungberg, who converted after a wonderful reverse pass from Cesc Fabregas.
Again though, Arsenal failed to shut up shop, and Ledley King headed home Spurs’ third goal to ensure an exciting final 15 minutes. With nine minutes to go, the Gunners lead was extended again, as Robert Pires produced some fantastic footwork to beat Noe Pamarot before sliding the ball home from a tight angle. Game over right?
Thankfully for the neutrals there was still one more name to be added to the score sheet, as with two minutes to go Henry’s square pass was intercepted and the ball was lofted into Freddie Kanoute who volleyed home for some late drama.
This time, however, the final whistle halted the goal tally.
Power shift unplugged - Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2, February 2012
Arsenal began 2012 in the worst possible fashion. Three straight defeats and just two wins in the first six games, as well as defeats in the FA Cup and Champions League, meant a huge performance was needed to act as a catalyst for turning an underwhelming season around as many critics were starting to ask whether this was finally the year Tottenham ruled North London and finished above Arsenal.
Unfortunately, if you were supporting Arsenal that day, the first half could not have started any worse. Just four minutes in, Louis Saha strolled in on goal and finished past Wojciech Szczesny, and 30 minutes later former hero and now villain Emmanuel Adebayor converted a controversial penalty.
Thankfully the lead was destroyed just nine minutes later when Bacary Sagna’s powerful header flew past Spurs’ keeper Brad Friedel and Gunners captain Robin Van Persie swivelled gracefully on the edge of the penalty area before curling home the equaliser.
The comeback was complete shortly after the start of the second after, as Tomas Rosicky’s delicate dink passed Friedel sent the North Bank wild. Theo Walcott then raced forward and chipped home for the forth, and soon after he was in again to drive the ball home from a tight angle to comeback the empathic scoreline.
From this game, the Gunners lost just two more games that season, and finished third, just one point ahead of Spurs, securing bragging rights for yet another season.
5-2 turned out to be a something of a lucky scoreline for Arsenal, as everyone knows the very next league fixture between the sides ended with that as it’s final score too.