Shirt numbers at different clubs all have different sentimental values – for the likes of Arsenal, as well as Liverpool and Manchester United wearing the No.7 shirt is one of the highest honours.
At Arsenal especially, you’re following in the footsteps of Liam Brady, David Rocastle and Robert Pires and usually have to score vital winners over rivals Spurs – whilst at Liverpool it evokes memories of Kenny Dalglish and Luis Suarez and at United: Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Over the years, the No.9 shirt has usually been the cherished item of a prolific striker, the likes of Alan Shearer, Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahmimovic have all made the 9 shirt their own and provide to it’s rich history.
With Alexandre Lacazette making his club record move to the Gunners this week, he could be the next in the long line of Arsenal No.9s but given its history, would he want to be?
Not since the early days of Alan Smith has the Arsenal No.9 shirt been a sought after item with many fans believing it to be cursed with only Nicolas Anelka having any success in the shirt before he was sold in 1999.
However, even the beloved Smudger seemed to be a victim of the nine curse as have all the following players.
The now-TV pundit was a key part of Arsenal’s two League titles in 1989 and 1991, scoring over 20 goals in both title-winning campaigns, including the vital opener in the league decider at Anfield in May 1989. However, the arrival of Ian Wright in 1991 saw Smith’s goal return fall dramatically, recording only eight goals in his final three league seasons. There was some solace, he scored the winner in Copenhagen as the Gunners won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup 1-0 against Parma but injuries forced him to retired just over 12 months later. Image Source: Twitter
The arrival of Dennis Bergkamp meant that fan favourite Merson was shifted to the No.9 shirt with mixed success. Although he remained a regular in the team even after he admitted his addiction to alcohol, cocaine and gambling in 1994, Merson became Arsene Wenger’s most notable outgoing as he revamped the squad being sold to Division One Middlesbrough in 1997. Image Source: Twitter
Moving to Arsenal for just £500k, Anelka inherited the #9 shirt from Merson after his exit and was a rare success story bursting onto the scene with an excellent opener against Manchester United at Highbury. Having scored the crucial second in the FA Cup Final in 1998, securing the double in his first full season in North London, he followed it up by scoring 19 goals the next season and was named PFA Young Player of the Season. But his infamous attitude got the better of him and he was sold to Real Madrid where he struggled to bed in lasting only one season in the Spanish capital. Image Source: Twitter
The hero of Croatia's Third Place finish at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, winning the Golden Boot in the process, Suker joined the Gunners from Real Madrid, going in the opposite direction as Anelka and taking his number in the process. The former UEFA Champions League winner found himself behind Kanu and the developing Thierry Henry and lasted just one season, scoring 11 goals in 39 games. He ended his Arsenal career missing his penalty in the UEFA Cup Final shootout loss to Galatasaray and was sold to West Ham in the summer. Image Source: Twitter
Once christened Wenger’s ‘Fox in the Box’ Jeffers struggled to find fitness and form in North London and in two years at Arsenal found the net just eight times - he was loaned back to Everton in 2003 and later sold to Charlton in 2004. His final appearance for Arsenal was a sending-off against Manchester United in the 2003 FA Community Shield. Image Source: Twitter
Jose Antonio Reyes
The Spaniard was supposed to be a major coup from Arsenal, signing the Sevilla man ahead of Real Madrid, he started brightly scoring both goals in a 2-1 FA Cup win over Chelsea and made crucial contributions to keep the unbeaten run going at the end of the 2003/04 season after the title was won. Having scored in each of the opening six games of the next season, Reyes was intentionally targeted and fouled at Old Trafford and his Arsenal career declined thereafter. He moved to Real Madrid on loan in 2006 and was later sold to Atletico Madrid in 2007. He became the second player to be sent-off in an FA Cup final when he was sent off in extra time of the 2005 victory over Man Utd. Image Source: Twitter
Once thought of as the next big thing out of Brazil, Baptista had been a Wenger target before his move to Real Madrid and eventually Wenger got his man when he swapped Reyes for Baptista for the 2006/07 season on loan. The Brazilian scored just three league goals in 24 games but did have a memorable League Cup quarter-final at Anfield. Alongside Jeremie Aliadiere, Baptista scored four and missed a penalty for a fifth as Arsenal ran out 6-3 winners. He started the final but the Gunners lost 2-1 to Chelsea and he returned to Madrid after one season in North London. Image Source: Twitter
Having scored 47 goals in 47 games for Dinamo Zagreb, big things were expected of the Brazilian born Croatian and it was looking like he was starting to deliver as Arsenal topped the table in February 2008 but a horror leg break due to a robust tackle from Martin Taylor nearly ended his career. He recovered to return to the team but failed to re-capture his form and was sold to Shakhtar Donetsk in 2010. He remains a beloved figure at Arsenal, the entire Emirates Stadium giving him a standing ovation when he scored a consolation for Shakhtar in a UEFA Champions League group game months after his departure. Image Source: Twitter
Nobody knows why Arsene Wenger signed Park from then-Ligue 2 side Monaco, he played just eight minutes of Premier League football for Arsenal as a late substitute against Manchester United and his only goal for the club came in a League Cup game with Bolton. He lost the number nine shirt after one season. Image Source: Twitter
Podolski was a key signing of the summer 2012 as Arsenal sold captain Robin van Persie to Manchester United but he could never find his feet as a centre-forward, often finding himself out wide. After just two and a half seasons, Podolski was loaned out to Inter Milan in 2015 and in summer 2015 was sold to Galatasaray. Image Source: Twitter
Like Park, Perez’s signing is a strange one but for vastly different reasons, the Spaniard had been rather impressive in his rare outings for the Gunners, providing either a goal or assist in most of his games and scored a hat-trick against FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League group stages. However, he’s rarely been seen in the latter half of the season just gone and is expected to be sold after one season at the club. Image Source: Twitter
Gunners fans will be hoping any incoming striker can return the number 9 shirt to its former glories or that they may avoid the shirt altogether given it’s history.
Whilst the No.7 could be the highest honour for an outfield player at Arsenal, the nine is almost a death knell to their careers before it begins.