Ranking every player to No.10 for Arsenal in the Premier League era
It is one of the most coveted numbers in football. A number that brings with it such authority, a true label of a footballer’s class. It is, of course, the No.10 – and Arsenal’s has a pretty impressive lineage.
Since 1992, and the creation of the Premier League, the Gunners have hoovered up three league titles and nine FA Cups. Invariably, the number 10 at the time had a large role to play in each success.
Seven players have worn the particular shirt in the Premier League and here is how we think they rank.
7. William Gallas
After making the leap from Stamford Bridge to the Emirates, Gallas asserted himself by taking Dennis Bergkamp’s digits. Let’s be honest, a centre-back wearing the number 10 shirt looks very, very weird.
Arsene Wenger did do his best to explain the decision, however: “In the end, I thought it might be a good idea to give the number 10 to a defender because a striker would suffer a lot with the comparison with Dennis. At first, I was reluctant to give Dennis’s number out, and especially to a defender, but overall I think it’s better that way.”
Fighting fans, calling out Arsenal’s youth, scoring a strangely large amount of goals in the Champions League; Gallas was a thoroughly entertaining figure in his four seasons in the red half of north London. But we cannot be seen to support defenders wearing the number 10.
6. Emile Smith Rowe
We love the current incumbent of the Gunners’ No.10 shirt. He’s great.
It feels ridiculously harsh to place the Hale End graduate second-bottom, but that’s just testament to the players that have worn it before him.
Smith Rowe has the ability to rise up this ranking, but at the moment he probably doesn’t quite get into Mikel Arteta’s best XI. Still, he’s come up with his fair share of special moments – that’s some going at the age of 22.
5. Jack Wilshere
In the huge realm of ‘what if?’ players, there are none bigger than Jack Wilshere.
At his peak, he was simply an utter joy to watch and after bursting onto the scene, it looked like he would be an ever-present in the Gunners midfield, probably captaining them until he retired. Wenger saw that same future too.
“[Wilshere] is naturally a guy who is not scared of anything on the football pitch and that is usually the sign of a leader. He wants to win and shows you that.
“Of course, he will be one of the leaders of this club – in fact, he already is. A leader is somebody who does everything on the pitch to help his team to win. And he does that.”
We all know about Wilshere’s injury record so let’s not dwell on it. Let’s just watch his goal against Norwich on repeat.
— Throwback Arsenal (@ThrowbackAFC) December 27, 2019
4. Mesut Ozil
Never before have Arsenal fans had such a confusing relationship with a player. They loved him for his vision, they hated him for his reluctance. And those feelings battled each other for eight-and-a-half years.
Sky Sports News will probably never again see such energetic scenes as they did when the three-time leading La Liga assister signed on transfer deadline day in 2013, and while he may have frustrated, there is no doubting the class Ozil showed as well.
The German maestro arguably played that number 10 role better than anyone since a certain Dutchman retired. Even if he did do so incredibly erratically.
3. Paul Merson
Before he forged a career mispronouncing players’ names, Merson was one of England’s best attacking forces.
Capable of playing in behind the striker or leading the line himself, he hung around at Highbury for 12 years before moving on to Middlesbrough, scoring some absolutely excellent goals along the way.
Unfortunately for him we are being strict, and only five of those seasons were spent playing in the Premier League; otherwise he may have found himself a place higher. Yes, we have decided that football did in fact start in 1992. Sorry, Paul.
2. Robin van Persie
One of the most brutally efficient strikers the Premier League has ever seen, Van Persie had no interest in playing as an attacking midfielder.
Strangely, he initially turned down the number 10 shirt after Bergkamp departed, not wanting to draw comparisons between himself and his compatriot. But Van Persie demanded it after Gallas left in 2010, eventually breaking into the Gunners top 10 all-time top scorers.
Yes, Arsenal fans. We know you don’t like how he ended things and left for Manchester United. But let’s not forget, how bloody good he was in north London.
1. Dennis Bergkamp
A man who simply set the bar for all on-field artists that came after him. Statistics will never do the great man justice.