Chelsea’s false 9s

The number 9 is the goalscorer. If he can find the net every two games or better, then you can’t have too many complaints, really. Of course, nowadays ‘9’ generally refers to the player in the centre-forward position with the actual number on his back a fairly movable feast. Since the start of 2001-02, only once has the Premier League Golden Boot award been won by a number 9 (answer at the bottom).

It’s fitting that the last 9 to win it before that was Chelsea’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in 2000-01, for this article looks at the curse of that shirt since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003-04. The Chelsea 9s just don’t get enough goals.

Hasselbaink

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (2003-04)

Abramovich’s first season would prove to be Hasselbanink’s last in blue before joining Middlesbrough. While not complete duff, he wasn’t the force that he once was and a haul of 17 goals in 44 matches in all competitions was a poor return, especially considering that Chelsea came second in the league and reached the Champions League semi-finals. Ratio: 0.39 goals per game

Kezman

Mateja Kezman (2004-05)

The Serbian arrived at Stamford Bridge having scored 105 goals in 122 games for PSV Eindhoven and the inheritance of Hasselbaink’s shirt seemed a perfect fit. Seven goals in 41 appearances for Chelsea suggested otherwise. Moved to Atletico Madrid, where he got eight in 30. Ratio: 0.17

Crespo

Hernan Crespo (2005-06)

Crespo spent 2004-05 on loan at Milan, almost winning a Champions League medal, but he was back at Bridge for 05-06 and his swapping of number 21 for 9 seemed to be a statement of intent. While he got the winner away to Wigan on the opening day of the league season, he didn’t effect a turnaround in his Chelsea career and finished the campaign with 13 goals in 42 games before joining Inter. Ratio: 0.31

Boulahrouz

Khalid Boulahrouz (2006-07)

Chelsea’s new number 9 was really a number 2, number 3 or number 5. Khalid Boulahrouz, signed from Hamburg, was a dirty bastard of a defender and, not surprisingly, didn’t score in his 20 games with the club before joining Seville. Still, not much worse than Kezman. Ratio: 0

sidwell

Steve Sidwell (2007-08)

Another non-striker in the shirt and again, worn for just one season. Sidwell arrived on a free from Reading and then joined Aston Villa, scoring once in 25 games. Ratio: 0.04

disanto

Franco di Santo (2008-09)

A striker, but never a first-choice player. Still a teenager when he signed, he had scored 13 in 55 for Chilean side Audax Italiano. Originally given 36 in the 2008 pre-season, he was subsequently assigned 9. Mainly used as a sub in his 16 Chelsea appearances, failing to find the net. Joined Blackburn on loan for 2009-10 and then inked a permanent move to Wigan. Ratio: 0

Torres

Fernando Torres (2011-14)

Chelsea didn’t allocate a number 9 at the start of the 2009-10 or 2010-11 seasons, allowing Torres to take it when he joined for £50m in January 2011. While he brought Gary Neville much joy in the Camp Nou, he couldn’t rediscover the form which made him such a hot property at Wigan. Having joined Milan on loan for the next two seasons, he’s unlikely to add to his Chelsea tally of 45 goals in 172 matches. Ratio: 0.26

So, in the 11 years since Abramovich bought the club, Chelsea number 9’s have scored 83 goals in 352 matches, an average of 0.24 goals a game. They’ve still won a few trophies in that time, mind.

 

  • Dimitar Berbatov is the last 9 to win the Golden Boot, doing so in 2010-11.

My squad-number beefs

As this blog will (hopefully) have a long lifespan, with admirers waiting eagerly for updates, it’s important at this early stage to lay out what we like and don’t like, starting with the latter but going beyond the blatant stuff like a striker wearing 5 or a first-team regular having number 44. It should be pointed out that this is almost certainly an inexhaustive list, and other irrational hatreds will make themselves known as time goes on.

1. Having two or more of the numbers 4, 5 and 6 worn by midfielders is wrong

When looking at a teamsheet, we like to work out who’d be wearing what if the team were wearing 1-11. A lot of the time, it’s easy to process this, but take Barcelona’s squad this season – new signing Ivan Rakitić is 4, Sergio Busquets has taken 5 and Xavi is still 6. If Barça were, for some reason, forced to forgo squad numbers and all three of those were in the team, then two of 7, 8, 9, 10 or 11 would have to be in a four-man defence.

2. A two-man strikeforce should never be allowed to wear 10 and 11

Number 9 in midfield is actually a guilty pleasure of ours, once it’s not worn a defensive midfielder – Paul Ince at Middlesbrough, we haven’t forgotten you and your crimes. If 9 is a midfielder, though, then the two strikers must be 8 and 10 (for example, Michael Laudrup in the hole at Barcelona behind Hristo Stoichkov and Romario). What is a complete no-no is 10 and 11 playing up front together, with extra marks deducted if 9 is the left-midfielder (we did say these were irrational).

This affliction likely comes from a complete phobia of having a team numbered in order from left to right, defence 2-5, midfield 6-9 and strikers 10 and 11 – something our manager at U13 level persisted with. Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord’s rarely-effective partnership probably contributes too (mainly due to Wiltord, it must be said).

3. Captains wearing numbers higher than 11

This stems from a hope that clubs would still number players in a method some way related to having the best players in the lowest numbers, and the players keen to wear numbers in the first 11. We accept that it is a forlorn one by this stage, but nevertheless seeing a captain in a high number still jars. That the most visible exponent of this is John Terry is probably not a coincidence.

4. Players switching from a 1-11 number to a higher one

A young player being given a number in the teens having worn 34 in his debut season is a clear sign that he will feature more in the coming campaign. It’s a sign of progress, so therefore a player’s number going in the opposite direction – without being expressly put on the transfer list – can surely only be taken to be the opposite? He mightn’t be a first-teamer anymore, but at least afford him the dignity of allowing him to keep his number rather than making clear to everyone that you’re helping his career down the tubes. At Middlesbrough, Gary O’Neil went from 4 to 16 to 18 (the latter completely needless), while Oldham’s Genseric Kusunga can’t have been too happy to see his number 5 swapped for 21. Apparently, Alvaro Albeloa chose of his own accord to change from 2 to 17 while at Liverpool, while Joe Hart’s move from 1 to 25 at Man City (when Shay Given took 1) was eventually reversed.

One exception that we’ll allow is Abou Diaby changing from 2 to 24, as 2 was a mental number for a central midfielder. It says much about his injury record that a lot of people thought that his move took place this summer when he actually switched at the start of the 2013-14 season.