Ranking every current Premier League number nine from worst to best

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Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku

The importance of a squad number can vary from year to year, and the 2021-22 Premier League season has two teams currently operating without a number nine.

Clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United have attachments to the No.9 shirt which increase the pressure on every new occupant.

Others have seen in-fighting over the shirt, with players either losing their preferred number when a more prestigious player arrives or being forced, Ivan Zamorano style, to opt for a two-digit number where those digits add up to nine.

But which Premier League club has the best number nine in the division? We’ve put together a power ranking of sorts, based on each player’s past and present, along with their importance to their team as things stand.

If you disagree with our rankings…. that’s fine. It’s a game of opinions, no need to lose too much sleep over it.

20= Tottenham Hotspur – N/A

The No.9 shirt hasn’t meant a great deal to Spurs fans of late, with expensive disappointments Roberto Soldado and Vincent Janssen among the recent wearers.

Last season it was Gareth Bale’s turn, and since the Wales international returned to Real Madrid, it has remained unclaimed. Bale’s now wearing the Zamorano special of 18, by the way, with Karim Benzema wearing No.9 and Marco Asensio inheriting Bale’s old No.11 shirt.

20= Watford – N/A

How do you replace a long-serving number nine? In Watford’s case, it’s by leaving the shirt unused for his first season away from the club in a decade.

Troy Deeney finally left Vicarage Road over the summer, and now wears the number 36 (3+6 = 9!) at Birmingham City. The Hornets’ new strikers, meanwhile, are wearing No.7 (Josh King), No.17 (Ashley Fletcher) and No.25 (Emmanuel Dennis).

18. Norwich City – Jordan Hugill

One step up from ‘no one’ is ‘a striker who has been loaned out’ and that’s what Norwich have done with Hugill.

The former West Ham and Preston striker scored five goals last season, having been mostly used as a substitute, and is now battling with the likes of Karlan Grant and Callum Robinson for a spot in West Brom’s attack.

17. Aston Villa – Wesley

More than one player on this list could find himself higher up by the end of the season, and we have to consider Wesley within that number.

The Brazilian has been unlucky with the extent and timing of his injury, missing more than a year of football and returning to a squad which has since spent big on Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins. He had quality before his injury but may need a move away to rediscover it.

16. Brentford – Marcus Forss

At 22 years of age, Forss has plenty of growing to do and shouldn’t feel there’s a huge rush to displace Ivan Toney.

The striker has five goals in two cup games this season, and his low position on this list is simply because he hasn’t netted in the Premier League yet. That could well change very soon, though.

15. Crystal Palace – Jordan Ayew

While Ayew’s goal record isn’t the best, he remains an important squad member at Palace.

This is where the squad number can be a little misleading: an asset from wide positions might be valued more without the previous life as a principal striker which saw him gain his current number. But besides, he’ll always have that goal against West Ham.

14. Southampton – Adam Armstrong

Southampton have invested a lot in Armstrong and showed their backing by handing him Danny Ings’ old shirt number, but it’s still early days.

The former Blackburn Rovers striker scored on his Saints debut at Everton but hasn’t added to that goal at the time of writing, and his position on this list reflects a player who will hope his best days are yet to come.

13. Manchester United – Anthony Martial

The thought of Martial being so low in the rankings would have sounded preposterous not that long ago, but the France international isn’t in the best place right now.

He has started just twice this season, with United winning neither game and hasn’t scored a club goal since the 9-0 win over Southampton in February. With Cristiano Ronaldo joining and Mason Greenwood kicking on, the route back looks like a challenging one, but the forward has shown plenty of quality in the past.

12. Burnley – Chris Wood

Four straight seasons of 10 or more league goals demonstrate Wood’s importance to Burnley, and he’s their highest ever scorer in the Premier League.

This season’s return has been less impressive, with just one goal in eight games in all competitions, but there’s not a lot to choose between the players in the middle of the pack on this list.

11. Arsenal – Alexandre Lacazette

Lacazette could easily be lower, having failed to live up to his £53million price tag on the balance of things, but the France international has continued to score goals even when fighting for playing time.

The former Lyon man has two goals in two cup starts this term, having hit 50 in the league across the last four campaigns, but more time on the sidelines this term could see his stock fall.

10. Brighton & Hove Albion – Neal Maupay

Maupay is moving in the opposite direction to his compatriot, scoring four in his first six games this season after a tougher 2020-21 campaign on a personal level.

The 25-year-old should have even more of an upside going forward, as well, and appears to have established himself on the south coast.

9. Wolverhampton Wanderers – Raul Jimenez

Jimenez’s goal against Southampton is the sort of moment which can have the Mexican moving back towards the top of this list sooner rather than later.

A long spell on the sidelines has brought the natural questions about how quickly he can get back to his best, but his ceiling is higher than plenty of others in the Premier League.

8. Liverpool – Roberto Firmino

Firmino’s status as a must-pick at Liverpool is a thing of the past, with Diogo Jota justifying his extra minutes this term, but the Brazilian is still a huge talent.

If we were making this list two years ago, he’d be a lock for the top five if not higher. Now, though, others are more crucial to their teams than Firmino is to the Reds, and his input when selected only makes up a little bit of the difference.

7. Leeds United – Patrick Bamford

It’s probably fair to say Bamford exceeded expectations upon Leeds’ promotion, seeing as he scored more goals in the Premier League than he managed one level below and now comes the classic second season test.

The recent England international has developed into a proper, well-rounded number nine in a way he didn’t always seem capable of earlier in his career, and the Whites often look like they’re missing something when he’s unavailable.

6. Newcastle United – Callum Wilson

Speaking of players who add a lot to their team, the discrepancy between Newcastle’s results with and without Wilson are plain to see.

The former Bournemouth man averaged a goal every 180 minutes or so last season, and has rebounded from the kinds of injury which would have stopped others in their tracks.

Alan Shearer celebrates scoring for Newcastle against Inter Milan at San Siro. March 2003.

READ: Ranking every player to wear No.9 for Newcastle in the Premier League

5. Manchester City – Gabriel Jesus

Jesus is no longer an orthodox number nine, having begun to excel in a wide role under Pep Guardiola, but his output remains impressive.

Manchester City’s number nine has reached 50 Premier League goals at the age of 24, with that number including important strikes like the winner at Chelsea this term, and it will be interesting to see what his numbers look like at the end of this season.

4. West Ham United – Michail Antonio

It seems weird that Antonio has never scored more than 10 goals in a Premier League season, but he’s a late bloomer who hasn’t always played as a central striker.

Last season saw the West Ham man end the campaign with more non-penalty expected goals per 90 minutes than Harry Kane (according to FBRef), and at the time of writing, he’s the joint-highest scorer in the league for 2021-22.

3. Everton – Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Calvert-Lewin was one of the men who ensured Antonio declared for Jamaica at international level after failing to earn an England cap, and the Everton man has developed into a complete striker over the last two seasons.

The 24-year-old has seen his end-of-season goal tally increase with each new season at Everton, which means 16 is the score to beat this term. Three in three isn’t a terrible start.

2. Leicester City – Jamie Vardy

Every year, we’re told it will be the season that age catches up with Vardy. Every season, that assessment is wrong.

To make your Premier League debut at the age of 27 and still make it to 100 goals by 33 is no mean feat, and the former England international is showing no signs of slowing down.

1. Chelsea – Romelu Lukaku

Had Chelsea not dipped into the transfer market in a big way, Vardy would be top of the list at the age of 34. Instead, though, it’s a man who has scored goals everywhere he’s played.

More than 300 career goals for club and country would represent a huge achievement at the end of most players’ time in the game. For Lukaku to have hit that milestone by the age of 28, earning a club-record move and following that with four in his first four back at Chelsea? Well, that speaks for itself.


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