Emile Smith Rowe will wear the number ten shirt for Arsenal from next season, the academy graduates growing status rewarded with the prestigious shirt number at the Emirates.
Smith Rowe played a crucial role in Arsenal’s upturn in form following his introduction to the side mid-way through last season, with the midfielder’s performances having attracted interest from Aston Villa before his signing of a new long-term deal with the Gunners.
The 20-year-old’s commitment to the club had been rewarded with an improved squad number and the youngster will be hoping to emulate some notable names to have adorned the ten.
Here are our rankings of the five best players to wear the number ten for Arsenal in the Premier League era.
5. Jack Wilshere
Smith Rowe is not the first talented academy graduate to be rewarded the ten shirt, with Jack Wilshere handed the number following his exciting emergence from the club’s youth ranks.
Wilshere became Arsenal’s youngest ever Premier League debutant against Blackburn in 2008, eclipsing the record of Cesc Fabregas aged just 16 years and 256 days.
After a handful of appearances over his first two campaigns he broke into the side in 2010/11, enjoying an excellent season to feature 49 times in all competitions and win the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
On this day in 2013, Jack Wilshere finished off one of the most beautiful team goals in Premier League history 😍
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 19, 2020
Hailed as the future of English football given his technical qualities and continental style, Wilshere suffered the first of several injury setbacks ahead of the following campaign, with recurring fitness issues proving a theme of his career.
Despite spending a decade in the first-team set-up he never reached 30 league games in a campaign again, making just 197 appearances in all competitions before leaving for West Ham.
He won two FA Cup winners’ medals with the Gunners, but a career that once promised so much failed to reach the heights expected amid his injury issues.
3. Paul Merson
Paul Merson’s greatest successes perhaps came before the Premier League era with a pair of league titles, but the star continued to shine during the early seasons of the newly formed division.
Merson overcame well-documented personal problems and played a prominent role in the Gunners’ successes of the early nineties, the north London side becoming the first team in history to win a domestic cup double in 1992/93, before adding the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup the following season.
Merson dropped into a deeper role after initially beginning his career as a forward, where his mixture of graft and guile made him a firm fans’ favourite amongst the Highbury faithful.
He made 280 appearances in the Premier League for Arsenal and provided 46 goals and 43 assists, before leaving in surprise circumstances for Middlesbrough in a perhaps premature exit from north London.
3. Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil was the marquee signing designed to reestablish Arsenal amongst the elite, the club record arrival from Real Madrid raising optimism following a lean period post-Invincibles.
Ozil’s first season saw the Gunners end their nine-year wait for a major trophy with FA Cup success, before retaining the trophy the following season with the midfielder at the forefront of their triumphs.
Ozil became the fastest player in Premier League history to reach 50 assists – since eclipsed by Kevin De Bruyne – with the Germany international’s guile and finesse a potent weapon for the north London side.
His finest season came in 2015/16 as he provided a league-leading 19 assists, falling just one short of the Premier League’s all-time single season record for goals provided.
However, Ozil’s flashes of brilliance soon became mixed with ineffective displays as his influence waned, the midfielder’s languid style at odds with the intense pressing football that began to dominate the top level of the European game.
A record-breaking contract signed in 2018 ultimately worsened his situation as the club sought to desperately offload an underperforming player on a lucrative contract, a once perfect match between club and player ending in a messy divorce following a move to Fenerbahce in January 2021.
2. Robin van Persie
Arsene Wenger gambled on the talents of a young Robin van Persie from Feyenoord in 2004, signing the forward despite a troubled start to his career in the Netherlands.
Van Persie was viewed as a potential long-term replacement for Dennis Bergkamp and began brightly after reaching 10+ goals in each of his first three campaigns with the club, despite injury issues and periods on the sidelines.
Wenger’s later decision to move Van Persie into a centre-forward role paid dividends as the Dutchman flourished into one of the Premier League’s finest footballers at the Emirates.
He scored 62 goals in 97 goals between the 2008/09 and 2010/11 seasons, before enjoying one of the Premier League’s great individual campaigns during a stunning 2011/12.
Van Persie netted 30 goals and provided a further 10 assists to be named as the PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year, the Netherlands international almost unplayable for much of what proved his final campaign with the club.
A controversial move to Manchester United and subsequent inspiring of the Red Devils to the title soured relations between player and club, but Van Persie in his latter years at Arsenal was a special talent.
1. Dennis Bergkamp
The greatest number ten in Arsenal’s history, Dennis Bergkamp was a statement signing who proved the catalyst behind the Gunners’ transformation in the Premier League era.
Bergkamp arrived from Inter Milan as the club’s record signing and provided no end of brilliant moments, with the north London side’s perceived ‘boring’ football replaced by some of the finest the Premier League has witnessed.
Central to that change was the gifted genius of Bergkamp, whose adhesive first touch and perfect technique made him one of the division’s greatest imports.
Bergkamp was named as the PFA Player of the Year as Arsenal won a domestic double in 1997/98, as the arrival of Arsene Wenger as manager unlocked the true potential of the forward in the Premier League.
A second domestic double following four seasons later, with the partnership of Bergkamp and Thierry Henry proving the perfect match, the creative quality of the former the ideal foil for the explosive talents of the latter.
Bergkamp won a third league title as Arsenal won the 2003/04 title unbeaten, before calling time on a glittering career following the conclusion of the 2005/06 season, having provided 181 goal involvements in 315 league appearances.