Ranking every player to wear No.5 for Arsenal in the Premier League

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Thomas Partey is the latest player to be handed Arsenal‘s No.5 shirt – but how have the other incumbents of the shirt fared in the Premier League era?

Just seven players have worn the jersey since the English top flight introduced official squad numbers in the 1993-94 season, and the results are pretty mixed.

We’ve ranked every player to wear the No.5 shirt for Arsenal in the Premier League era from worst to best.

7. Gabriel Paulista 

Not to be mistaken with Arsenal’s current Gabriel, Paulista spent two and a half years at the Emirates and is best remembered for being terrorised by Diego Costa.

He also took his passion and aggression a bit too far, averaging a yellow or red card every 329.5 minutes in the Premier League. No wonder he was labelled a “hot head” by Arsene Wenger. 

The centre-back struggled to dislodge the Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker partnership and was subsequently sold at a small loss to Valencia in 2017.

“In the Premier League, I tried to prove my worth but I didn’t get the chances,” Paulista told The Independent in 2019. “When I played, it was often because of an injury to my team-mates. I deserved more opportunities. I was sad because I knew I had the ability to play but other people didn’t think so.”

6. Sokratis 

Signed from Borussia Dortmund for £17.6million in 2018, Sokratis was supposed to fix Arsenal’s frailties with his old-school approach to defending.

The centre-back was solid if not spectacular for Unai Emery but his limitations on the ball saw him fall out of favour under Mikel Arteta.

After being excluded from their Premier League and Europa League squads at the start of the 2020-21 season, he had his contract was cancelled by mutual consent and joined Olympiacos in January 2021.

At least he will always have that run against Leeds. 

5. Andy Linighan 

After scoring the extra-time winner in the 1993 FA Cup final against Sheffield Wednesday, Linighan became the first Arsenal player to be officially assigned the No.5 shirt.

The centre-back was behind the likes of Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Martin Keown in the pecking order but still made 41 Premier League appearances over the following two seasons.

He switched to the No.12 shirt ahead of the 1995-96 season before completing a permanent move to Crystal Palace in January 1997.

Upon retirement, Linighan became the owner of a plumbing company. We can’t quite see Partey following in his footsteps with this one.

4. Thomas Vermaelen 

Vermaelen joined Arsenal from Ajax in 2009 and enjoyed a brilliant debut season, scoring seven Premier League goals and earning a place in the PFA Team of the Year.

But he never played more than the 45 games he managed in that first season, with a series of injury problems limiting him to just 150 games in five years at the club.

The Belgium international was still given the captaincy after Robin van Persie’s sale to Manchester United in 2012, only to then reject a new contract and join Barcelona two years later. 

3. Kolo Toure 

The man, the myth, the legend. 

Having established himself as one of the best defenders in the Premier League, Toure was handed Arsenal’s No.5 shirt ahead of the 2006-07 season.

He then formed a brilliant defensive partnership with William Gallas and – more importantly – continued to delight fans with his hilarious antics on and off the pitch.

The centre-back remained a key player for the Gunners until a furious bust-up with Gallas fuelled his departure in the summer of 2009.

READ: A celebration of Kolo Toure: Likeable, hilarious, and also very, very good

2. Steve Bould 

Despite joining Arsenal in 1988, Bould had to wait until the start of the 1995-96 season before officially getting his hands on their No.5 shirt.

The centre-back was part of the club’s famed back-four alongside the likes of Lee DixonNigel Winterburn and Tony Adams, helping strike fear into opponents.

He became an experienced and important figure in Arsenal’s 1997-98 double success, making 34 appearances in all competitions for Arsene Wenger’s side.

Bould saw out his playing career at Sunderland in 1999-00 before joining Arsenal’s coaching staff, where he continued to work until being sacked in 2021.

1. Martin Keown 

Keown inherited the No.5 shirt from Bould in 1999 and certainly had a lot to live up to, but he didn’t let the pressure affect his performances.

The defender wore the shirt with considerable distinction, winning a second Premier League and FA Cup double with the club in 2001-02. 

He then played a peripheral role in his final season at Arsenal, making 10 league appearances as they went unbeaten in 2003-04. His biggest impact – a good one, admittedly – was his goading of Ruud van Nistelrooy in the Battle of Old Trafford.


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