There have been plenty of changes afoot at Arsenal of late. They have almost done things really well, only to be tripped up at the last.
The departures of Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta at the end of the 2015/16 season freed up 7 and 8 respectively. Alexis Sanchez has an affinity with 7 – so much so that he took 17 when he joined, necessitating Nacho Monreal’s move to 18 – and so it was logical that he switched. The other move caught us by surprise, but was no less pleasing.
Not all of Aaron Ramsey’s decisions lately have been good ones, but the Welsh midfielder changing from 16 to 8 is a good fit. It’s also nice to see a player in the modern game who wishes to trade up (technically ‘down’, we know) to a 1-11 number, even if he wasn’t that far outside them to start with.
Those switches freed up 16 and 17, and it appeared that the club had been on the ball with filling them too. Alex Iwobi had established himself as part of the first-team squad in the second half of the season, putting the likes of Theo Walcott to shame, and it was a further indication that he will be more involved next season as he was given 17 instead of 45.
And then, Granit Xhaka came into play. Before it was officially announced that the Swiss midfielder would join from Borussia Moenchengladbach, he was in London to complete a medical and have publicity pictures taken. Those images – featuring him in the then-unreleased new home kit – were leaked, and the leaker also conveyed information on numbering changes.
According to him, Xhaka would take 34 (he wore it in Germany and has it tattooed on his neck), with Francis Coquelin moving from that to 8. Incidentally, had that happened, it would have been a fifth different number for him at Arsenal, having had 35, 39 and 22, in that order, before 34.*
Obviously, that didn’t happen and then it appeared that Xhaka would assume Ramsey’s old 16. For us, it’s a number which really suits a central midfielder, so this was quite pleasing, until Xhaka had a change of heart. Jay from Design Football was probably delighted as 29 is ‘his’ football number, but it doesn’t sit well with us when first-team squad members are given numbers higher than 22, 25 at a push.
Arseblog has his theories on the rationale behind Xhaka’s switch. If he’s a success at the club, it’ll hardly matter what’s on his back, but, rest assured, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll be at the forefront of the campaign to tell you why it hasn’t.
Incidentally, the same rumour which suggested that Coquelin would move to 8 with Xhaka taking 34 said that goalkeeper Petr Cech would move from 33 to 1 and right-back Hector Bellerin would take 2 when Mathieu Debuchy departs, having had 39 in 2014-15 and 24 last season. Both changes would appeal. A top-quality centre-forward wearing 9, and the Gunners’ first-choice XI wouldn’t be bad at all.
* The change from 35 to 39 was down to Arsenal’s way of numbering younger players alphabetically by surname, explained here. Being given 22 was a sign that he was part of the first-team squad but then he went out on loan and Yaya Sanogo inherited that shirt, so 34 was something of a stop-gap measure when he came back in 2014.