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Rating every player to wear the Arsenal number 10 shirt in the Premier League era

Mesut Ozil’s time with Arsenal finally looks to be reaching its drawn out conclusion, with the midfielder understood to be nearing a move to Fenerbahce after reaching an agreement to terminate the remainder of his contract.

Ozil’s fortunes have fallen drastically in recent seasons and he found himself unwanted and out-of-favour at the Emirates this season, with opinion split on whether his exile has come solely for football-related reasons.

 

The German’s impending departure will free up one of Arsenal’s most iconic shirts, with teammates Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette having already jokingly admitted their desire to take the coveted number 10.

As it prepares to head to a new owner, we’ve decided to look back at the players to have adorned the shirt in the Gunners’ recent history.

Here are our ratings of every player to wear the Arsenal number 10 shirt in the Premier League era:

Kevin Campbell

Kevin Campbell came through the academy ranks at Arsenal and after developing his game during loan spells at Leyton Orient and Leicester was handed a first-team opportunity in the pre-Premier League era, playing a crucial role in the club’s run-in to league title success in 1991.

As the rebranded Premier League began in the early nineties he remained an important part of the squad despite the arrival of Ian Wright from Crystal Palace, playing his part in the side that won an unprecedented domestic cup double during the inaugural season of the new division.

Campbell won the Cup Winners’ Cup the following year in a career-best season that delivered 19 goals, but moved on just a year later to Nottingham Forest amid increased competition for a first-team place from John Hartson and Dennis Bergkamp.

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The forward later had spells at clubs such as Trabzonspor, Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Cardiff, and remains the highest-scoring Englishman in Premier League history never to receive a senior international cap.

Rating: 5/10

Ian Selley

Ian Selley’s promising career was halted in unfortunate circumstances following a broken leg, never truly recovering before being sold on to Fulham.

The midfielder had come through the academy system and had showed promise during the early seasons of the Premier League, forming part of the squad that won a domestic double in 1992/93 despite being an unused substitute in both finals against Sheffield Wednesday.

He was handed his opportunity in the Cup Winners’ Cup final against Parma in 1994 following a succession of injuries and was the youngest member of Arsenal’s victorious side, but a collision with Leicester’s Iwan Roberts in February 1995 sidelined the 20-year-old for over a year.

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He played just once under new manager Arsene Wenger before being sold, never fulfilling his early promise in a career spent mostly in non-league.

Rating: 2/10

Paul Merson

Another talent to come through the club’s youth system, Merson broke into the Arsenal side in the late eighties and played a key role in the club’s first title in 18 years during the 1988/89 campaign, being named as the PFA Young Player of the Year.

He won a second title two years later and formed part of a successful cup side under George Graham during the early nineties, his creativity, flair and infectious personality making him firm fans’ favourite amongst the Highbury faithful.

Well-documented personal problems affected his game during the mid-nineties but after seeking therapy he returned in style to force his way back into the England side, though surprisingly left in a shock deal to sign for Middlesbrough in 1997 – a move motivated by the promise of both financial and football security.

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Merson left Arsenal having scored 99 goals in 423 appearances in all competitions and won five major honours with the north London outfit.

Rating: 7/10

Dennis Bergkamp

Dennis Bergkamp arrived as one of the early marquee imports into the Premier League and proved the catalyst for a change in culture at Arsenal, the dogged defensive displays the club had become renowned for replaced by free-flowing football with the forward at the heart of it.

Bergkamp bounced back from a slow start to cement himself as one of the greatest players in both Arsenal and Premier League history, a player possessing technical brilliance and an unmatched vision of the game around him.

The Dutchman won both Player of the Year awards as Arsenal completed a memorable domestic double during the 1997/98 season, before lifting both trophies once again just four seasons later as the Arsene Wenger era brought a wealth of success.

He remained an experienced figure as the north London side completed a historic unbeaten season to win a third league title in 2004, his partnership with Thierry Henry arguably the finest forward pairing the division has seen.

Bergkamp oozed effortless class and scored 120 goals in 423 appearances for Arsenal, his finest moments amongst the most defining images of the Premier League era and a statue commemorating his exploits now proudly sits outside the Emirates Stadium.

Rating: 10/10

William Gallas

In a decision which ranks amongst the Premier League’s worst crimes against traditional squad numbers, it was William Gallas who bizarrely replaced Bergkamp as Arsenal’s number 10.

Gallas was undoubtedly a fine player at the peak of his powers, but the decision to hand the iconic shirt to the former Chelsea centre-back certainly raised more than a few eyebrows.

A fine reader of the game and possessing the athletic qualities required of a leading defender, Gallas brought experience and leadership to the Arsenal defence during his four-season spell at the Emirates, though he is not remembered all too fondly.

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The France international justified his decision to inherit the number 10 shirt by suggesting it removed potential pressure from the club’s emerging attacking talent, the same youngsters he later derided in an ill-advised interview before being stripped of the club captaincy.

He made 142 appearances in all competitions, before souring relations with a controversial decision to join north London rivals Tottenham on a free transfer.

Rating: 4/10

Jack Wilshere

Jack Wilshere was viewed as the next great hope for both Arsenal and England after bursting onto the scene with the north London side, the precociously talented teenager becoming the club’s youngest-ever league player when making his debut against Blackburn.

Wilshere seemed to be the player Arsenal could build their team around, a technically gifted playmaker with the ability to receive possession on the half-turn and make things happen for his side.

His performance as a 19-year-old against Barcelona is one that defines him as he went toe-to-toe with the most revered midfield in world football, slaloming past challenges and exerting an influence that belied his tender years.

There were further highlights – including a PFA Young Player of the Year award and two BBC Goal of the Season accolades – but his progress was hampered by a succession of injury problems, Wilshere unable to put together a consistent run for much of his Arsenal career as his body sadly failed him.

Once tipped as a future club captain, he was allowed to leave on a free transfer to West Ham in 2018, having made just 125 league appearances in a decade.

A two-time winner of the FA Cup during his time with Arsenal, he recently signed a short-term deal with Championship side Bournemouth after being released at the London Stadium and remains a tale of what might have been.

Rating: 6/10

Mesut Ozil

Mesut Ozil’s recent fortunes appear to have brought an underwhelming conclusion to a seven-and-a-half-year spell at Arsenal that promised much but ultimately failed to truly deliver.

Ozil was heralded as the signing to catapult Arsenal back amongst the elite after his arrival from Real Madrid in 2013, a statement of intent from the north London side as they shattered their transfer record to sign the Germany international.

Ozil’s spell in the Premier League has brought plenty of highs and several notable lows, winning the FA Cup during his debut season and lifting the trophy on a further two occasions under Arsene Wenger.

His finest football came during the 2015/16 season as he was named as Arsenal’s Player of the Year, falling just one short of equalling the Premier League’s all-time single-season assist record and setting a new divisional landmark for chances created in a campaign.

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The diminishing use of the traditional number 10 and his languid style have since seen Ozil become an increasingly peripheral figure, however, the modern game largely placing greater emphasis on intensity and pressing play.

Off-field disagreements with the club also pushed him closer to the Emirates exit door, a sad ending for a player blessed with natural talent.

Rating: 6/10

Read – Golazo Merchants: Arsenal’s non-flying Dutchman, Dennis Bergkamp

Read Also – Every Premier League manager’s touchline fashion sense ranked

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