Ever since shirt numbers were introduced in the 1933 FA Cup final, there are several numbers that have held a certain prestige and the number nine remains one of the game’s most iconic.
More than just a number, it can often define a player’s role and status, with the nine shirt often bestowed upon the attacking focal point of a successful side. Premier League icons such as Alan Shearer and Robbie Fowler have previously worn the shirt, but how do the current owners of the number nine fare?
We’ve decided to look at each of the top six clubs current number nines, and rate their talents…
Arsenal – Alexandre Lacazette
Signed in a club-record deal from Lyon two seasons ago, the French forward has established himself as one of Arsenal’s leading lights since arriving at the Emirates from Ligue 1.
The 28-year-old’s goal record of 29 Premier League goals in 71 appearances may be impressive without being elite, though it is the forward’s style which has made him a firm fan’s favourite in North London.
Lacazette often proves to be the link for the club’s best attacking play, whilst his relentless work-rate and desire to win have further endeared him to the Arsenal supporters. The France international has also struck up a fine understanding with strike partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and the duo are key to any slim hopes the Gunners have of having a successful season.
Named as the club’s Player of the Year last season, he remains a popular and important figure under Unai Emery.
Chelsea – Tammy Abraham
Chelsea’s latest number nine will hope to end the curse of the iconic shirt at Stamford Bridge, and has so far delivered having been handed his opportunity under Frank Lampard so this season.
Few clubs have a stranger history than Chelsea with the number nine, whose previous holders of the jersey bizarrely include the likes of bit-part defender Khalid Boulharouz and the humorously nicknamed ‘Ginger Iniesta’ Steve Sidwell.
In his early months wearing the nine shirt Abraham has shown he can be a centre-forward to rely on, scoring nine Premier League goals in just 11 appearances so far this season.
It’s early days as a regular at Chelsea for the 22-year-old, though it’s so far, so good.
Liverpool – Roberto Firmino
Perhaps the most unorthodox number nine on this list, the Brazilian international joined Liverpool as an attacking midfield player before finding a home as a fluid false nine under Jurgen Klopp.
Klopp has referred to Firmino as the ‘engine’ in his side, and it is hard to disagree when witnessing the forward in full flight. The 28-year-old combines industrious work-rate with South American creativity and flair, operating as the lead in Klopp’s gegenpressing style and allowing the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to flourish around him.
His goal record – he averages one every three games – is often used against him by critics, though his importance to the Liverpool side is often most evident when he is absent. One of Liverpool’s best players in the opening months of the new season, he is beginning to get the credit he deserves.
Manchester City – Gabriel Jesus
The Brazilian international opted to take the number nine shirt ahead of the new season, and the 22-year-old will have ambitions of earning more regular first-team action after playing back-up to Sergio Aguero for the majority of his two-and-a-half years at the club.
A versatile forward blessed with an ability to ghost into dangerous positions, Jesus’ goal record is impressive since moving to English football from Palmeiras, netting 50 goals in just 112 appearances in all competitions for Pep Guardiola’s side, with many of his appearances having come as a substitute.
Having played his role in securing back-to-back titles and English football’s first ever domestic treble, Jesus will hope to become increasingly influential over the coming seasons and certainly has the potential to develop into an elite talent.
Manchester United – Anthony Martial
Handed the number nine shirt when signed from Monaco four years ago, Martial was moved to 11 – much to his dismay – before reverting back to his favoured number ahead of the new season.
Despite an impressive beginning to life at Old Trafford, the 23-year-old’s Premier League career is yet to truly ignite despite flashes of the potential which persuaded United to make him the then most expensive teenager in world football in 2015.
Often deployed in a wide role in his first seasons at the club, Martial is likely to be given more chances in his preferred central role under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and he has started the season in decent form when fit, netting three times in six appearances.
The talent is there for the Frenchman to establish himself as a leading light in the division, though it is time to fulfil that potential.
Tottenham – Shirt vacant
Tottenham are currently without a number nine, which perhaps comes as a surprise given the calibre of players who have previously worn the shirt for the club.
The likes of Les Ferdinand, Frederic Kanoute and perhaps surprisingly Darren Anderton have all adored the nine in Spurs colours, though perhaps the best of the Premier League era was the brilliant Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov.
Berbatov would spend just two seasons at White Hart Lane before leaving for Manchester United, though he would become a firm fan’s favourite with a series of classy displays, scoring 46 goals in just 102 appearances for the club in all competitions.
The last holder of the nine shirt was Dutch forward Vincent Janssen, but the less said about him the better…
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