Arsenal still suffering from curse Robin van Persie & Mesut Ozil endured

Arsenal’s number 10 shirt is as infamous as it is iconic, long gone are the days of Dennis Bergkamp strutting his stuff, threading eye of the needle passes while adorning the jersey.

In fact, since the non-flying Dutchman’s retirement from football – Arsenal’s 10 shirt has been passed between four different players, none of whom are remembered anywhere near as fondly as Bergkamp, with all four Arsenal tenures plagued in misery or criticism in some form.

Mesut Ozil’s departure at the beginning of the year has created a vacancy for the number 10 shirt among the Arsenal squad, with a whole host of the current crop set to be keen on taking on the responsibility, including Alexandre Lacazette, as well as youngsters Gabriel Martinelli and Emilie Smith Rowe – but would it be a wise choice?

Recent history suggests not much luck follows when a Gunner takes on the 10 shirt, and the last thing this Arsenal side need is yet another obstacle to deal with – handing one of the most sought-after squad numbers to someone with the potential of Emile Smith Rowe could be tempting fate.

With that being said, here is a look at the most recent Arsenal number 10’s, and how they fared at the club after being granted what should be an honour.

William Gallas

Bizarrely, the first person granted to pick up the baton from Bergkamp was temperamental Frenchman William Gallas.

A central defender by trade, the sight of Arsenal’s number 10 making last-ditch slide tackles rather than deftly chipped through balls took some getting used to for the Emirates faithful.

The decision to hand the number to a defender signed from London rivals Chelsea no less was controversial enough to lead to questioning from some sections of the Arsenal fanbase, forcing then-manager Arsene Wenger to assure there was some method to the madness.

In an October 2006 interview with the official team magazine, the Arsenal boss explained his decision to hand Gallas the number 10: "Number three was uncomfortable for him and I had given the rest of the numbers out.

In the end I thought it might be a good idea to give the number ten to a defender, because a striker would suffer a lot with the comparison with Dennis. At first, I was reluctant to give Dennis's number out, and especially to a defender, but overall, I think it's better that way.”

Gallas’ time at the Gunners is undoubtedly best remembered for his on-field meltdown at Birmingham.

A February afternoon that still sends shudders down any Arsenal fans spine over 13 years on, James McFadden’s last gasp-penalty all but destroying the Gunners title hopes in a game that was overshadowed by a horrific injury to Gallas’ teammate Eduardo Da Silva.

Following the game, Gallas was so furious with the official's decision to award the spot kick, and perhaps his own players for allowing them chance, he refused to re-enter the dressing room with the rest of the squad, providing the iconic image of a visibly furious of Gallas, 10 shirt on his back and captain’s armband on his sleeve, sat on the St. Andrew’s turf inconsolable.

He would leave Arsenal under a cloud over wage demands that were described by then-Arsenal Chairman Peter Hill-Wood as ‘unreasonable’ before committing the ultimate sin of joining fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the move to hand him the 10 shirt was one Wenger decision that didn’t really catch on.

Robin van Persie

Many saw van Persie as the rightful heir to Bergkamp’s squad number throne, fellow countrymen and both possessing an attacking elegance that could explode at any second – the pair even shared quite the temper under the surface.

Originally, van Persie took the squad number 11 as he established himself as one of Arsenal’s more senior players, with Wenger advising him to opt against the number 10 to avoid the obvious comparisons.

However, at the beginning of the 2010/11 season, van Persie deemed himself ready to take on the number and all the pressures that come with it.

It would take until the campaign after for the Dutchman to really hit the kind of form those close to the star knew he was capable of, cruising to the PFA Player of the Year award after finding the net 30 times in his second season as Arsenal’s number 10 and skipper.

Controversially, the love-in ended abruptly, as just over a month after the season’s end van Persie confirmed he would be swapping the number 10 shirt at Arsenal for the 20 shirt at arch rivals Manchester United.

Explaining why he opted to call time on his Arsenal career, the Dutchman infamously said: “I always listen to the little boy inside of me in these situations – when you have to make the harder decisions in life. What does he want? That boy was screaming for Man United.”

Jack Wilshere

Heralded by many as the next big thing for English football, Wilshere seemed to possess the kind of talent more commonly seen in the academies of La Masia rather than these shores.

Originally handed the number 19 shirt, Wilshere’s ability to be the last link before the attack saw him inevitably handed the 10 shirt in the wake of van Persie’s departure.

A small, technically gifted midfielder who seemed to be the walking embodiment of Arsene Wenger’s post-Highbury Arsenal.

A joy to watch, at times breath-taking, but there was always an issue just around the corner.

Wilshere struggled to shake off persistent ankle injuries that would go on to curtail his career and he was eventually sold by Wenger’s successor Unai Emery to West Ham, where he made just eleven league appearances in three years.

Mesut Ozil

Arguably the most mercurial of all the names mentioned, Ozil’s talent will ensure he is forever regarded as one of the game’s best playmakers.

However, many would argue a large portion of that talent was exhibited at his previous club Real Madrid, enduring more difficult spells of form in his seven years at Arsenal.

Earmarked as the signing to help restore the Gunners to their former glories, Ozil did play his part in ending Arsenal’s nine-year trophy drought (though it is important to note he did this while wearing the 11 shirt).

Ozil is perhaps the best example of the curse of Arsenal’s 10 jersey, while boasting number 11 he came within one assist of breaking the Premier League record, reaching 19 before Christmas in what was a scintillating individual 2015/16 season.

Taking over from Wilshere on number duty from 2018/19 onwards, this seemed to coincide with the beginning of the former German international’s demise in North London.

Often clashing with Emery, Ozil didn’t fare much better with his successor in former teammate Mikel Arteta.

The playmakers fall from grace could partly be a result of the diminishing use of a traditional number 10, given his strongest traits of deft touches and elite vision have seemingly been replaced by skillsets more heavily rooted in power than Ozil’s precision.

Off-field issues eventually placed the final nail in the coffin for his Arsenal career, leaving the 10 shirt vacant as Ozil swapped London for Istanbul to join boyhood club Fenerbahce.

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