Group numbers really mean nothing and are only used to differentiate between players, right? If only it were really true.
Some clubs ‘team numbers have become iconic over the years, with Manchester United’s number seven, Newcastle’s number nine and Arsenal’s number ten in particular weighing their occupants for several years after the previous owners’ success.
Emile Smith Rowe is Arsenal’s new number ten / Shaun Botterill / Getty Images
Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and, erm, William Gallas have all struggled to live up to the billing that comes with being handed over to Arsenal’s jersey number 10 since Dennis Bergkamp left in 2006, and the next to take on the challenge is Emile Smith Rowe.
Getting a new long-term deal at a club the size of Arsenal is a pretty big compliment for all 20-year-olds to get, but being assigned squad numbers for the legendary Bergkamp is probably even bigger.
Smith Rowe had a good breakthrough campaign with the Gunners last season when Mikel Arteta put his trust in the Croydon – born midfielder. We say he trusted him, if we are honest it was more a case of him having no other option.
The England Under-21 international put in some impressive displays when the Gunners clawed their way to a disappointing eighth place, but honestly, the hype surrounding him is not really worthy of a player who scored two goals and four assists all seasons.
Before you light the fires and take out the forks, we do not say for a second that he did not perform well – and given the performances of some of his more senior teammates, he was definitely one of Arsenal’s excellent players – we can only say that the hype seems a bit very.
Arteta has already spoken openly about how he feels Smith Rowe will be central to Gunner’s future plans, but nothing he could say would be more of an indication of that than giving him the number ten shirt.
New season. New contract. New number.
✍️ @emilesmithrowe pic.twitter.com/DT13LjBD1B
– Arsenal (@Arsenal) 22 July 2021
Countless United and Newcastle players have cracked under the pressure to get their respective clubs’ iconic jersey numbers, and Arsenal’s decision to name Smith Rowe their number ten after just 22 Premier League matches is a massive gamble.
The move is likely to go in two ways; Smith Rowe will either push out his chest, take on the responsibilities that have been given to him and help drive Arsenal’s attempts to become challenging for European football again, or his knees will become weak every time he takes on and the Gunners will destroy one of their more talented players.
Given his performances last season after making two Premier League appearances before the 2020/21 campaign, it is clear that Smith Rowe has the character and maturity to withstand tremendous pressure.
However, being Arsenal’s number ten is basically a coded message for ‘you are our principal now, it’s all up to your friend’, and it is a lot of responsibility to place on the shoulders of a man who has barely even had time to find his feet at the top level yet.