Arsenal are one of the biggest clubs in England. The North London club has also seen many great forwards play for them. The number nine shirt is one of football’s iconic jerseys. The reason this is so is not too far-fetched. It is the number usually apportioned to the team’s main striker. Except you are an Asamoah Gyan who wore the number 3 shirt as Ghana’s mains striker, almost every striker prefers to wear the number 9 shirt.
Arsenal’s No. 9 shirt is that which is rich in history. The jersey has been worn by good strikers like Anelka, Davor Suker, and Paul Merson. In recent times, however, wearing the shirt has not turned out well. It is not because the players are poor but for one reason or the other things just did not go well. Here are the players affected so far. This list is chronological.
1. Francis Jeffers
Jeffers began his career as a teenager with Everton. His goalscoring prowess earned him the nickname the fox in the box. He had his breakthrough in 1997 and by 2001 he had scored 18 goals in 49 league games. This convinced Wenger to sign the young Jeffers and the rest is history. Jeffers was handed the No. 9 shirt but he could not make any impact at Highbury as he struggled with injury and fitness issues. He left in 2004 with just 4 league goals to his name.
2. Jose Antonio Reyes
Reyes inherited the No. 9 shirt after Jeffers left. The Spaniard was signed from Sevilla in 2004 after Arsenal’s unbeaten campaign. Reyes somehow could not settle in within the three years he spent in North London. He was loaned to Real Madrid in his final season after admitting to being homesick. This was how his Arsenal career ended without any major impact at the Highbury.
3. Julio Baptista
All hail the beast. Baptista was loaned to Arsenal from Real Madrid in a deal that saw Reyes move to the other side. The big Brazilian could play as an attacking midfielder or a forward. He took on the No. 9 shirt went on to have an underwhelming spell as well. He did score four goals in the league cup against Liverpool but struggled for form in the Premier League. Madrid sold him to Roma after his loan with Arsenal ended.
4. Eduardo da Silva
Eduardo would have been one of the greatest strikers to have played for Arsenal but any superstitious person can connect his ill-luck to wearing the No. 9 shirt. He joined Arsenal from Dinamo Zagreb with Arsenal having Van Persie and Adebayor in their ranks already. A long-term injury to the Dutchman increased his playing chances until 23 February 2008. He suffered a leg break that took a year to heal on that day. Eduardo returned to action in 2009 but he was never the same player again. Wenger had to let him go in 2010.
5. Chu-Young Park
Park’s case is the perfect ‘had I know’ scenario. Aged 26 years and about to sign for Lille in 2011 after Monaco got relegated, Wenger came calling in the middle of his medicals. Park flew to London to complete the deal and like everyone on this list he took the No.9 shirt. Park literally wasted away on the bench as Robin van Persie’s form made sure other strikers did not get a chance to impress. He made just one Premier League appearance before he was dumped by the same man who signed him.
6. Lukas Podolski
The German took the No.9 shirt after Park. He was signed from Cologne in 2012 as a replacement for Robin van Persie who had left for Manchester United. It was soon obvious that Poldoski could not thrive as a loan striker in Arsene Wenger’s 4-2-3-1 formation. He was soon moved to the left flank where he scored some screamers. However, his 3-year spell at the Emirates was still overwhelming.
7. Lucas Perez
Perez was signed by Arsenal against the advice of their transfer expert. He was signed from Deportivo La Coruna in 2016 but it might be difficult to judge this guy as a flop. Arsene Wenger never gave him enough chance to prove himself and he was mostly played out of position. A single goal in 11 Premier League appearances pretty much sums up his Arsenal career. He was sold to West Ham in 2018.
AS THINGS STAND
Alexander Lacazette is the current holder of Arsenal’s No. 9 shirt. The Frenchman is a fan favorite but his form has not been too good before the season was suspended. A move to Atletico Madrid is being mooted in the media and should he leave, it might be a worthy saying that the curse of the shirt affected him too.