Changing numbers mid-season

Note: We revisited this topic in 2016.

In Spain, as far as we can see, players are allowed to change numbers during the mid-season break. In 2004-05, Henrik Larsson switched from 17 to 7 when the previous incumbent, Javier Saviola, joined Monaco. A year later, Lionel Messi would swap his number 30 for 19, though of course his destiny as number 10 wasn’t too far away.

Messi had to continue to wear 30 in Europe that season, however, as UEFA’s rules are far stricter. So strict are they, in fact, that no number can be used more than once in the same season. This meant that when Andy Carroll joined Liverpool in 2011, he had to wear number 29 in the Europa League, despite the fact that he had inherited the number 9 from Fernando Torres domestically.

Back to mid-season changes, though – in the the Premier League handbook, section M4 states that:

While he remains with the Club a Player will retain his shirt number throughout the Season
for which it was allocated.

By and large, this has unsurprisingly been the case (we do have a fuzzy memory at the back of our heads though that Chris Sutton began 1996-97 wearing 16 for Blackburn before realising Alan Shearer had left and then changing to 9), but Aston Villa in 2010-11 are a massive exception.

No fewer than four players finished the season wearing different numbers than those with which they began it:

Player                                   Old Number       New Number

Moustapha Salifou               17                       37

Andreas Weimann                42                       26

Barry Bannan                        46                       25

Ciarán Clark                          47                       21

Why were they allowed to do so, and in such relatively high numbers, when the practice would seem to be outlawed, and why are there seemingly no other examples? Please get in touch if you know.

1-11 in the Premier League redux, Part 1

We’ve already looked at the instances of Premier League sides fielding sides made up of players numbered from 1-11. Given that the last time that that phenomenon was properly witnessed was 1998, it would appear to be a relic, but how many of the current sides would be capable of managing it?

It was something worth examining, we felt, and we will do in a five-part series, working alphabetically. A couple of things to note:

– Where a club is missing a 1-11 number, it is denoted by the use of the away kit on the pitch graphic.

– Ideally, teams are laid out in the formation they use most often. If, though, all 11 numbers are filled then the formation is dictated by the players in those shirts.



  1. Wojciech Szczesny
  2. Mathieu Debuchy
  3. Kieran Gibbs
  4. Per Mertesacker
  5. Laurent Koscielny
  6. Tomas Rosicky
  7. Mikel Arteta
  8. Lukas Podolski
  9. Jack Wilshere
  10. Mesut Ozil

The departure of Thomas Vermaelen meant that 5 remains free and so we have utilised it alongside Arteta in the 4-2-3-1 which the Gunners often use. Switch 4 and 5 and 10 and 11 and this would be textbook. It’s a far cry from two years ago, when 3 (Bacary Sagna) was right-back, 11 (Andre Santos) was a left-back and 2 (Abou Diaby) played – or, rather, didn’t – in midfield.

Aston Villa


  1. Brad Guzan
  2. Nathan Baker
  3. Joe Bennett
  4. Ron Vlaar
  5. Jores Okore
  6. Ciarán Clark
  7. Leandro Bacuna
  8. Tom Cleverley
  9. Andreas Weimann
  10. Gabriel Agbonlahor

Villa have four defenders with low numbers, but all are centre-backs. Nathan Baker is first-choice with Ron Vlaar but for this we’ve had to shunt him to left-back, where he has played before, while Ciarán Clark is deployed in midfield. Baker’s position, and Agbonlahor wearing 11, mean that the missing numbers, 3 and 9, are in unconventional positions.

We hadn’t realised that number 3, Joe Bennett, was out on loan. His inclusion at left wing-back means 9 would play on the right with Weimann moving up alongside Agbonlahor. Most unsatisfactory.



  1. Thomas Heaton
  2. Kieran Trippier
  3. Danny Lafferty
  4. Michael Duff
  5. Jason Shackell
  6. Ben Mee
  7. Ross Wallace
  8. Dean Marney
  9. Sam Vokes
  10. Danny Ings
  11. Michael Kightly

The Clarets generally play 4-4-2 but numbers 4, 5 and 6 are all worn by centre-backs. The numbering is pretty much how we’d do it ourselves for a 3-5-2, though Wallace and Kightly are wingers rather than central midfielders.

Update: Thanks to Kitclashes Matt for pointing out that Ben Mee has played a bit in midfield, so we’ve changed it to what’d be considered a classic 4-4-2 in Ireland, 4 at CB and 6 in CM.



  1. Petr Cech
  2. Branislav Ivanovic
  3. Filipe Luis
  4. Cesc Fabregas
  5. Kurt Zouma
  6. Nathan Ake
  7. Ramires
  8. Oscar
  9. Fernando Torres
  10. Eden Hazard
  11. Didier Drogba

We know that Fernando Torres is unlikely to play for Chelsea again but he officially remains their number 9, even if having him permanently gone would allow it to be placed alongside Fabregas in a more accurate 4-2-3-1. Of the back four, only Ivanovic is first-choice though the other three are all young.