Ranking every player to wear No.9 for Arsenal in the Premier League
Thierry Henry in No.14. Dennis Bergkamp in No.10. Ian Wright in No.8. Arsenal has been the home to some of the Premier League’s greatest goalscorers – but rarely in the traditional No.9 shirt.
There have still been a few success stories to have donned the famous squad number in the red half of north London, but there have also been a few flops.
We’ve ranked every player to wear the No.9 for Arsenal in the Premier League since squad numbers became permanent in 1993.
12. Park Chu-young
When we began compiling this list we were willing to cut Park some slack, thinking he was one of those typical Arsene Wenger punts on a young player with potential during a period of relative austerity at Arsenal.
But then we remembered the striker was 26 and had just been relegated with Monaco when he was handed the No.9 shirt ahead of fellow Arsenal legends Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner.
Park’s debut campaign amounted to one goal in six appearances before he was stripped of the squad number and sent packing.
11. Francis Jeffers
After three seasons as a promising teenager at Everton, Jeffers joined Arsenal in an £8million deal in 2001, with a further £2million in potential add-ons. To put that into context, Thierry Henry cost the Gunners £11million two years earlier.
Jeffers did not have quite the same impact as Henry at Highbury, struggling with form and fitness, and returned to Everton two seasons later with eight goals to his name in all competitions.
10. Lucas Perez
Arsenal’s signing of Perez from Deportivo in a £17.1million deal went under the radar somewhat in 2016, but it seemed like good business at the time: a pacy, direct forward coming off the back of a 17-goal season in La Liga.
However, despite a 39-minute hat-trick in a Champions League victory at Basel, Perez never established himself in Arsene Wenger’s first-choice starting XI, and he returned to Deportivo on loan after Alexandre Lacazette swooped in to take the No.9 shirt away from him.
He described the move as an “ugly gesture” in an interview with Spanish outlet with La Voz de Galicia, adding: “The thing of taking the shirt number without telling me to give it to a companion, it seems to me the last straw.
“I can not continue this way. I have given everything, but that has not been reciprocated, so I can’t stand it any longer.”
Given he’s just been sold after a solitary campaign at West Ham, he’s not exactly been missed.
9. Julio Baptista
Those of us familiar with FIFA and Football Manager were quite excited by Baptista moving to English football with a loan move to Arsenal in 2006.
Sadly, the Brazil international seemed to try to cram a season’s worth of excitement into two League Cup games.
The one-time Sevilla hitman is best remembered for scoring four goals at Anfield in a League Cup clash in which he also missed a penalty, while he also struck twice in the semi-final clash against Tottenham having already put through his own net.
12 years ago today, Arsenal beat Liverpool 6-3 at Anfield. Júlio Baptista scored 4 times. It was the first time in 75 years that Liverpool conceded 6 at home. pic.twitter.com/6f78U5M1J3
— Throwback Arsenal (@ThrowbackAFC) January 9, 2019
8. Davor Suker
Given the reputation he developed after winning finishing as the top scorer at the 1998 World Cup with Croatia, plus that chip against Denmark at Euro 96, much more was expected of Suker.
He had the difficult task of competing for game-time with Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Nwankwo Kanu but still scored 11 goals in all competitions – one more than Bergkamp.
Sadly, his last act for Arsenal was to miss their first penalty in the shootout defeat to Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup final.
7. Alan Smith
Smith is an Arsenal hero, but his best days as their No.9 came before the advent of permanent squad numbers.
Across the two seasons the shirt was his, he scored just five league goals, although he did bag the excellent winner in the 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup final against Parma.
Alan Smith Vs Parma pic.twitter.com/7v5Xdi8vhi
— 90sArsenal (@90sArsenal) March 22, 2016
6. Jose Antonio Reyes
After joining from Sevilla in January 2004, Reyes made an eye-catching start to life at Arsenal, scoring a brace to knock Chelsea out of the FA Cup and a crucial equaliser at Portsmouth to ensure the Gunners’ invincible status.
The Spaniard went on to score in his first six appearances of 2004-05 but flattered to deceive from thereon amid reports he was homesick.
Reyes was later the victim of a prank phone call in which he told a radio DJ who he thought Real Madrid sporting director Emilio Butragueno: “I wish I was playing for Real Madrid.”
“If I’m not (playing for Real) I’m going to have to carry on playing with some bad people,” he added.
A sad story, Eduardo was proving himself to be one of Arsene Wenger’s best bargain buys with 12 goals to his name by February of his first campaign in England football before he suffered a horrific leg break in an infamous clash with Birmingham City.
The injury kept the Brazilian-born Croatia international sidelined for 12 months, and he ultimately failed to recapture the form which had made him such an exciting goalscorer.
4. Lukas Podolski
Being able to hit the ball extremely hard with your left foot and being generally quite fun gets you into fourth on this list.
Thirty-one goals from two-and-a-half seasons spent mainly operating from the flank is not to be sniffed at, either.
3. Paul Merson
More of a midfielder rather than a traditional No.9, Merson wore the shirt for two seasons between 1995-97.
In a recent article for ESPN, author Nick Hornby wrote of the collective shock when Arsene Wenger decided it was time to move Merson on in 1997.
“‘Paul Merson! We love Paul Merson! And he’s not good enough? Bring it on!'” wrote Hornby, before concluding: “And Wenger did.”
It just so happens the man who took over the No.9 shirt upon Merson’s departure is still to come in this ranking…
2. Alexandre Lacazette
Depending on how much longer he sticks around at the Emirates, Lacazette could find himself at the top of this list.
After a steady but unspectacular start to life at Arsenal, the Frenchman has become one of their most important players since the arrival of his buddy cop partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Forty-five goals in 114 appearances at the time of writing is a decent return considering many of those appearances have come from the wing or bench. If he continues that form and fires the Gunners to a trophy or two, we may have to reconsider his standing further down the line.
1. Nicolas Anelka
Signed as a £500,000 unknown from PSG in 1997 and sold two years later as a £22.3million superstar to Real Madrid having won the Premier League and FA Cup.
“Listen, for me people do not mention him as they should mention him,” Thierry Henry, a man who knows a thing or two about being a great Arsenal forward, told Sky Sports in 2018. “He was one of the best strikers we have seen in this league.