The Great Squad Numbers Christmas Quiz

Followers of us on Twitter will have noticed a few quizzes over recent days, where we show the way a team lined out for a big game and asked them to work out who it was based on which number played where. So impressed were we by the knowledge of the people who responded that we have decided to expand it a little bit by doing one on here.

There are five ‘questions’, with a tricky tie-breaker involved if needed. While our budget probably can’t stretch to a prize, we would ask that you enter by emailing so as not to spoil it for others by writing your answers in the comments section. Good luck!






Guilty pleasures at Christmas

Early in the life of this blog, we elaborated – or tried to, at any rate – on the things about squad numbers which got our goat. It’s not to suggest, by the way, that we’re perfect ourselves, as proven by the fact we once signed attacking midfielder Stefano Fiore for Roma in CM99-00 and gave him the vacant number 6 rather than 28.

It seems only fair, therefore, that we should welcome the upcoming festive season with a balancing article which looks at the things which don’t follow the ‘classic’ numbering pattern but for which we have a ‘grá’ [it’s an Irish word similar to ‘affection’, pronounced ‘graw’]. The fact that each example has a caveat helps to ease our conscience.

We’ll limit our own to three, but we’ll open the floor to suggestions:

1. Number 2 at centre-back (but only if 4 is right-back)

Ryan McGarrity entered my office. The Northern Irish youngster had performed well since breaking into the Cork City team, forming a strong partnership at centre-back with German international Jurgen Becker. I should point out at this stage in the story that it technically occurred in the setting of a game of Football Manager 2012.

Captain Nathan Todd was retiring. He only had the armband for a year and was only ever intended to be stopgap after the retirement of club stalwart Aiden Kelly, who had come up through the ranks and gone on to become the Republic of Ireland left-back as well as winning everything domestically and leading the club to the Champions League group stages.

As Todd was getting on in years, I decided to leave him in the number 13 shirt he had made his own in proving a highly dependable back-up for Kelly or else playing in front of him at midfield. That was fine, but McGarrity was going to be the new captain, hopefully for more than a decade, so he couldn’t keep 17. Becker wore 5 and Lars Larsson, a D/DM C of high quality, was still an important squad member despite getting on and I couldn’t just take 4 off him. There was another vacant number, though.

“You’re the new captain,” I told McGarrity, “and you’re also the new number 2.”

“Am I moving to right-back?” he asked, incredulously.

“No, you’re staying where you are but I can’t have my long-term captain wearing a number higher than 11. You’d end up riding team-mates’ former girlfriends, parking in spaces reserved for disabled drivers and getting up to no good in general.”

Kasado was the first-choice right-back and kept number 22 until Larsson left at the age of 35. The Brazilian was also capable of playing centre-back and so 4 was a good fit for him. Most of the rest of the first team wore the ‘right’ numbers though and so, in some European games, when Larsson would come on for Swiss playmaker Adolfo Cappelletti as we switched to 4-1-4-1, the right-back was nominally number 10. It was an occupational hazard.

Apart from fictional examples, Argentina haven’t done too badly with 4 at right-back and 2 in the middle, while it worked out okay too for Liverpool in the 1980s.

2. Number 9 in the hole behind a strikeforce of 8 and 10

The ‘three foreigners’ rule came against Barcelona in the 1994 Champions League final as Johan Cruyff had to drop Michael Laudrup to accommodate Ronald Koeman, Hristo Stoichkov and Romario. Without limitations, the Spanish side may have put up more of a fight against AC Milan, who beat them 4-0, but then maybe Milan might have had better foreigners too.

In La Liga, however, Barça played some lovely stuff. While they took the title based on their head-to-head record with Deportivo La Coruña, the sides were 10 clear of third-placed Real Zaragoza and this was with only two points for a win – had it been three then Cruyff’s side would have won the title.

With no restrictions on foreigners, Laudrup provided the bullets for Stoichkov and Romario, who had arrived from PSV Eindhoven. The Dane retained the number 9 he had worn in a more advanced role with Romario taking 10 and it just looked right – we wouldn’t have been as keen on, say, 8 and 11 or 7 and 10. Honourable mention for Arsenal in 1996-97, with Paul Merson playing behind Ian Wright and Denis Bergkamp.

3. Number 7 in central midfield but only if 8 or 10 plays on the right

Bryan Robson is mentioned a fair bit in this piece about Manchester United number 7s and he’s the first example of this trope who springs to mind.

We can’t exactly say why, but we like the look of a 7 being an all-round, domineering midfield, possibly more so than one in the playmaking role, though that fits fine too.

If 4 or 6 were moved to the right to accommodate this, then the OCD alarm might begin to sound, likewise 11 as it would mean another central number moving across to the left. A small amount of ‘wrong’ numbers is bearable, but don’t go too far with it.

Arsenal, the team of the 70s

Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Stefan O’Connor made their debuts for Arsenal away to Galatasaray in the Champions League last night.

Traditionally, Arsenal’s younger players are numbered in alphabetical order from the late 30s upwards, but this season this is done in two tranches – the players born in 1995, ’96 and the first half of 97 go from 37 (Semi Ajayi) to 57 (Josh Vickers). Then, the players from the second half of ’97 onwards are listed, starting with number 59 Marc Bola and going as far as Elliott Wright, who is 78.

Both Maitland-Niles and O’Connor are in this younger sector and so wear 70 and 73 respectively. It certainly looked strange.


Update: For 2015-16, Maitland Niles is on loan at Ipswich, where he wears 7. O’Connor is in the first rank of youths numbers this season, so he has 52.

The History of Numbers: Brazil

A break from Premier League 1-11s as we return to another series, charting the way numbering systems came to be common in various parts of the world.

Having already looked at the British, Argentinean and Eastern European styles, we now return to South America and Brazil.

Similar to their albiceleste neighbours, Brazil generally have 2, 3, 4 and 6 in defence, but in a different format. Basically, they did the opposite to Argentina when dropping a player back as the 2-3-5 formation evolved into the W-M, withdrawing 6 rather than 4:


Then, as they invented what would become known as the 4-2-4, number 4 became a centre-back alongside 3 with 5 remaining in midfield, as would become the practice all over the continent.


Then, again mirroring what Argentina did, 11 remained as the second striker with 9 while 7 dropped back, giving us what is today known as the 4-2-2-2. Incidentally, over time 3 and 4 have become interchangeable – for example at the World Cup in 2014 Lucio was the right-sided centre-back wearing 3 with David Luiz carrying 4 on the left.


1-11 in the Premier League redux, Part 3

You know the drill by this stage, we’re examining how the Premier League teams would look if they picked the players numbered 1-11. Next up, the middle four alphabetically:



  1. Brad Jones
  2. Glen Johnson
  3. José Enrique
  4. Kolo Touré
  5. Dejan Lovren
  6. Steven Gerrard
  7. Rickie Lambert
  8. Philippe Coutinho
  9. Oussama Assaidi

No numbers 5 or 7, but the way the rest of the players are allows us to put those numbers in historically appropriate locations for Liverpool (4-4-2 might have been better but Brendan Rodgers does tend to prefere 4-2-3-1 and the number 7 often played just off 9 in the great ‘Pool teams).

Switch 2 with 4 and 8 with 11 and it’s like Kenny Dalglish assigned the numbers.

Manchester City


  1. Joe Hart
  2. Micah Richards
  3. Bacary Sagna
  4. Vincent Kompany
  5. Pablo Zabaleta
  6. Fernando
  7. James Milner
  8. Samir Nasri
  9. Alvaro Negredo
  10. Edin Dzeko
  11. Aleksandar Kolarov

We could have gone 4-4-2, with Sagna at right-back, Zabaleta left-back and Kolarov on the wing, but Kolarov is more of a defender, though two right-backs in a back three distorts the balance slightly.

Manchester United


  1. David de Gea
  2. Rafael
  3. Luke Shaw
  4. Phil Jones
  5. Marcos Rojo
  6. Jonny Evans
  7. Angel di Maria
  8. Juan Mata
  9. Radamel Falcao
  10. Wayne Rooney
  11. Adnan Januzaj

Pretty perfect numbering for this formation (apart from 5 and 6 the wrong way round), though if United were to ever line up like this it could be 6-5. You’d need a couple of good defenders and mid-2000s Michael Essien instead of Jones.

Could have gone with three at the back but then there’d be no midfield at all. W-M, perhaps?

Newcastle United


  1. Tim Krul
  2. Fabricio Coloccini
  3. Davide Santon
  4. Ryan Taylor
  5. Mike Williamson
  6. Moussa Sissoko
  7. Vurnon Anita
  8. Papiss Demba Cissé
  9. Siem de Jong
  10. Yoan Gouffran

The lack of a 5 is a help in terms of making a playable formation, and while it’s not the ideal place to put it, Ruel Fox did wear that number while playing as a winger for the Toon. Coloccini likes 2 as he’s Argentinean and luckily the others fall into that system.

1-11 in the Premier League redux, Part 2

We’ve already looked at the first four clubs in the Premier League and how they’d fare with the players numbered from 1-11, so – a bit belatedly – here are four more.

Crystal Palace


  1. Julian Speroni
  2. Joel Ward
  3. Adrian Mariappa
  4. Brede Hangeland
  5. Patrick McCarthy
  6. Scott Dann
  7. Yannick Bolasie
  8. Adlene Guedioura
  9. Kevin Doyle
  10. Fraizer Campbell
  11. Wilfied Zaha

The fact that Bolasie and Zaha are wingers would mean that Guedioura would be overworked, and of course the 2 and 3 switcheroo is sacrilegious.



  1. Joel Robles
  2. Tony HIbbert
  3. Leighton Baines
  4. Darron Gibson
  5. Samuel Eto’o
  6. Phil Jagielka
  7. Aiden McGeady
  8. Bryan Oviedo
  9. Arouna Kone
  10. Romelu Lukaku
  11. Kevin Mirallas

A fairly continental-looking 3-4-3 for the Toffees. Gibson could perhaps drop back alongside Jagielka as required, but you wouldn’t be putting the house on McGeady tracking back. The front three may also be too similar to play together. Eto’o wearing 5 is obviously a disgrace, but it does provide historical balance as centre-back Johnny Hurst wore 10 on the 1969-70 title-winning side.

Hull City


  1. Allan McGregor
  2. Liam Rosenior
  3. Maynor Figueroa
  4. Alex Bruce
  5. James Chester
  6. Curtis Davies
  7. David Meyler
  8. Tom Huddlestone
  9. Abel Hernandez
  10. Robert Snodgrass
  11. Robbie Brady

A fairly solid-looking layout. If we were being pedantic, we’d want 7, 8 and 10 to be moved around but it hardly matters in the big scheme of things.

Leicester City


  1. Kasper Schmeichel
  2. Ritchie de Laet
  3. Paul Konchesky
  4. Daniel Drinkwater
  5. Wes Morgan
  6. Matthew Upson
  7. Dean Hammond
  8. Matthew James
  9. Jamie Vardy
  10. Andy King
  11. Marc Albrighton

Almost a perfect 4-5-1. Hammond is a central player who can play on the left, which is handy as Albrighton is right-sided.

A look into the future?

@Jay29ers from Design Football got in touch again with another article suggestion. We’re not sure we fully agree with the execution of an interesting concept but we’ll put it to the floor. Take it away, Jay:

Monday, April 27, 2015:

Arsène Wenger’s position as Arsenal manager was hanging by a thread last night after Jose Mourinho seemingly coerced him into tactical suicide.

Chelsea’s 3-0 victory at the Emirates came at the end of a week of verbal jousting that the Frenchman had both initiated and spurned an opportunity to distance himself from.  The result leaves the Gunners four points outside of the Champions League qualification places, after a weekend that saw Manchester United and Liverpool take the opportunity to leapfrog Southampton into third and fourth places respectively.

Seven days ago, a routine press briefing was enlivened by Wenger’s questionable assertion that Arsenal’s “first eleven” was technically superior to that of their West London rivals.  A point intended to highlight his side’s injury woes throughout the season – bizarrely vocalised in a week when Wenger’s squad could boast an entirely clean bill of health – was jumped on, and ostensibly taken entirely literally, by Mourinho (“Arsenal’s one to eleven better than Chelsea’s?”), who scoffed at the idea when probed for a response by the media.

Obviously riled, Wenger held firm on Friday’s appearance in front of microphones and cameras.  Accordingly, Mourinho grunting “He still thinks that?  Ok, Chelsea’s second eleven can beat Arsenal’s first.  You know 1933 FA Cup Final?” acted as a final red rag to a bull that no one could have previously predicted Wenger would play so ably in this pantomime.  Heads were scratched amongst the proverbial Fleet Street cognoscenti, but eventually the proposition that Arsenal should select their players in possession of squad numbers one to eleven, and Chelsea theirs from twelve to 22, was understood and relayed.

Instead of rising above the Portuguese’s gamesmanship, Wenger released his inner-Marty McFly and – we presume stopping short of writing “Nobody calls me chicken” on his submitted teamsheet – duly dispensed with the resurgent Theo Walcott (#14) and the recently dependable Aaron Ramsey (#16).  With no number 5 on the squad list since Thomas Vermaelen’s departure, artistic licence allowed the retention of Alexis Sanchez (#17), in this case as an entirely ineffectual centre-forward.

One impending crisis was averted through Mourinho being as good as his word, in a manner of speaking.  The inclusion of numbers 24 and 26 in the form of Cahill and Terry, and certainly number 2, Branislav Ivanovic, made a mockery of the “second eleven” notion, but as simply to fill the gaps in the requisite squad section it broke no unspoken “rules”.  Conversely, with an ultra-attacking 3-4-3 formation, and Willian and Mohamed Salah having defensive duties from midfield, the Emirates faithful would ordinarily be licking their lips.  Unfortunately, with Lukas Podolski recalled to a starting lineup he surely would have assumed was now in his footballing past, and the other flank occupied by the flagging Tomáš Rosický, the industrious Chelsea wide men looked confident from the outset.

The only success for the home side was limiting the enduringly magificent Diego Costa to no goals and just the two first half assists – the first a pullback from the byline for an onrushing Andre Schürrle to tap home, the second a teasing dink forward straight into the path of the Brazilian right-midfielder.  The look the adopted Spaniard gave as his teammate offered thanks truly said “Willian, it was really nothing.”

Shortly after the break, Salah justified his place with a neat run and low drive into Szczęsny bottom right-hand corner, immediately alerting all around that the game, and the challenge, was up.  Enter number 4, Cesc Fàbregas, to half-hearted boos from the rapidly dispersing crowd.

In his post-match interview, Mourinho heaped praise on his troops – now champions elect – and kept his gloating to one barbed prediction: “Mr Wenger will never beat me.”  In the Arsenal hot-seat at least, he may just have blown his final chance.

Arsenal (0) 0 Chelsea (2) 3

Goals: Schürrle (9), Willian (28), Salah (53)

Yellow cards – Arsenal: Debuchy (33), Podolski (61), Özil (70), Wilshere (74)

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): 1 Szczęsny; 2 Debuchy, 4 Mertesacker, 6 Koscielny, 3 Gibbs; 10 Wilshere (16 Ramsey, 77), 8 Arteta; 7 Rosický, 11 Özil, 9 Podolski; 17 Alexis Sánchez (12 Giroud, 45).

Chelsea (3-4-3): 13 Courtois; 2 Ivanovic, 24 Cahill, 26 Terry; 22 Willian, 12 Mikel, 21 Matić, 17 Salah; 18 Rémy, 19 Diego Costa (4 Fàbregas, 60), 14 Schürrle.