At the time of writing, heading into October’s international break, Tottenham are sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League table with Arsenal breathing down their necks in second spot. Both sides remain unbeaten after eight games of the 2023/24 season and each has won six and drawn two. With the Gunners and Spurs both playing some very nice football and getting the better of some of their title rivals, might we be in for a season in which one of the north London sides (probably Arsenal!) wins the league and the other finishes as runners-up?
The prospect of a north London one-two got us thinking: have Arsenal and Tottenham ever finished a top-flight season occupying first and second places between them? So we trawled through the history books (aka a few reliable websites) and we’ve come to the conclusion that, perhaps surprisingly, Arsenal and Spurs have never finished first and second (in either order) in the Premier League or its forerunner the First Division.
When Have Arsenal & Tottenham Both Finished in the Top Three?
Arsenal have won the top-flight title an impressive 13 times and have finished as runners-up 10 times. Spurs have not lived up to their neighbour’s success, but they’ve still bagged two top-flight titles and finished in second place on a further five occasions. But when one of the north London clubs has won the league, the other has never finished as runners-up. But on the following four occasions, Spurs and Arsenal have at least both finished in the top three:
|1933/34||Arsenal||Huddersfield Town||Tottenham Hotspur|
|1951/52||Manchester United||Tottenham Hotspur||Arsenal|
|1970/71||Arsenal||Leeds United||Tottenham Hotspur|
|2015/16||Leicester City||Arsenal||Tottenham Hotspur|
Now let’s take a brief look at each of those four seasons to see how close the sides came to making it a north London one-two.
1933/34 – Arsenal, Huddersfield Town, Tottenham
The 1933/34 season was one of mixed fortunes for Arsenal. On the one hand, they enjoyed the high of winning their third league title in four seasons. On the other, they faced tragedy when manager and club legend Herbert Chapman died suddenly midway through the campaign, aged just 55. He was the man who kickstarted Arsenal’s early success and he’d already led them to two league titles and an FA Cup.
As for Spurs, they made a decent fist of things and actually had the better of the Gunners in 1933/34, winning 3-1 at home and earning a 1-1 at Arsenal. But in the end, Arsenal won the title with 59 points from their 42 games (when a win was only worth two points), with Huddersfield in second on 56 and Spurs back in third on just 49 points (having lost 14 times!).
1951/52 – Man United, Tottenham, Arsenal
It was another managerial legend who tasted success in 1951/52 as Matt Busby won his first league title as a manager with Man United. Tottenham were the reigning champions at the time having won their first-ever title in 1950/51, and Spurs weren’t too far away from making it two in a row.
In the end United finished top of the pile on 57 points, four clear of both Spurs and Arsenal (who also mounted a significant challenge). The north London clubs could only be separated using the old goal average metric. Indeed, Arsenal would go on to win the title the following season (with Spurs back in 10th place!).
1970/71 – Arsenal, Leeds United, Tottenham
The 1970/71 season was all about the Gunners as Bertie Mee led the club to their first title since 1952/53. Helped by Ray Kennedy’s goals, Arsenal won the league by a single point from Don Revie’s Leeds United with Spurs in third place, a whopping 13 points behind the champions. To rub salt in the Tottenham wound, Arsenal clinched the title by winning 1-0 at Spurs on the final day of the season, Kennedy scoring the winning goal.
Arsenal then went on to complete the double, the first in their history, when they beat Liverpool 2-1 (after extra time) in the FA Cup final at Wembley in front of 100,000. It emulated Tottenham’s achievement of 1960/61 (but then Spurs haven’t won the title since then!).
2015/16 – Leicester, Arsenal, Tottenham
Arguably the closest Arsenal and Spurs have come to occupying the top two positions came in 2015/16 when Leicester rewrote the script to become the surprise Premier League champions. In a ‘normal’ season, had Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City all badly underperformed, the path would have been open for a north London one-two. But this was certainly not a normal season as Leicester outfoxed all and sundry to take the league by storm and win by a clear 10 points.
The points totals of the clubs (71 for Arsenal and 70 for Spurs) weren’t anything to write home about though, as Arsenal and Spurs finished in second and third respectively. Leicester somehow sustained their explosive form for the whole campaign and there is little doubt that fans of both the Gunners and Spurs certainly saw it as a missed opportunity.
Could the 2023/24 Season See a North London One-Two?
It is very early days in the 2023/24 campaign, but the signs are positive that both north London clubs could be serious title contenders. As such, it is certainly feasible that the great rivals could finish in first and second positions for the first time. Arsenal are riding high after beating champions Man City 1-0, and they have already beaten Man United too.
Spurs, meanwhile, have got the better of both Man United and Liverpool and have been playing some great football under new boss Ange Postecoglou. There’s a long way to go, but there is certainly a fighting chance this could prove to be the season in which north London conquers all.