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Arsenal's no. 10's rated and slated as Emile Smith Rowe handed iconic shirt

Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror

Arsenal will line up next season with yet another academy star wearing an iconic kit number as Emile Smith Rowe is rewarded with both a new contract and the number 10 shirt.

The 20-year-old South London born star has been a revelation since nailing down a spot in the Arsenal first team last Christmas, crucial to the upturn in fortunes for the Gunners following the festive period.

Eyebrows were raised among some sections of the Emirates faithful after Smith Rowe was the subject of not one but two bids from fellow Premier League outfit Aston Villa.

At the time, with contract talks still up in the air, Gunners fans were made to sweat over the prospect of losing one of the most talented youngsters to come out of the Hale End academy in recent years.
Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe, pictured with manager (L) Mikel Arteta and (R) Director of Football Edu, signing his new contract (Image: Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

However, Arsenal supporters can now breathe a sigh of relief as the 'Croydon De Bruyne', as he was affectionately dubbed last season, has put pen to paper and committed his future to the club.

Working tirelessly in his role behind the striker, Smith Rowe represents a new form of creative midfielder, long gone are the days of standing idle until the time comes to pick an eye of the needle pass (a former fellow Arsenal number 10 springs to mind), Smith Rowe's break-neck speed for 90 minutes wrecks havoc among the opposition.

With that being said, Mirror Sport opted to take a look at some players from Arsenal past who have been lucky enough to adorn such a classic shirt number.

Paul Merson - 8/10
Merson enjoyed 12 years at Arsenal, scoring 99 goals in the process (Image: Getty Images)

North London born and raised, Merson was actually a Chelsea fan as a child, but that fact does not get in the way of the incredible amount of love older Arsenal fans have for the mercurial midfielder.

Merson spent the best days of his career with the Gunners, notching 99 goals in an astonishing 423 appearances over the course of his 12-year stint with Arsenal.

The former England international also boasts one of the most impressive honours lists of all of Arsenal's recent number 10's, with two league titles, one FA Cup, one League Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup to match.

In a poll taken by Arsenal fans via the club's website, Merson was ranked as the 26th greatest Arsenal player of all time.

Dennis Bergkamp - 10/10
Dennis Bergkamp is Arsenal's greatest ever number 10 (Image: Reuters)

In the eyes of many, the 'non-flying Dutchman' is the most gifted footballer to ever pull on the Arsenal shirt, regardless of the number on the back.

Boasting a level of technical ability rarely seen in the Premier League, certainly not at the time of his arrival in 1995, Bergkamp enjoyed eleven glorious years at Arsenal before leaving calling time on his playing days in 2006.

The only person to be voted first, second and third in Match of the Day's goal of the month poll for his stunning hat-trick against Leicester City, Bergkamp continued to amaze the Arsenal faithful with his talent right up until his final appearances.

Officially recognised as the second best Arsenal player of all time, just behind club record goal-scorer Thierry Henry (who wore the number 14) there is quite a convincing argument to be made that Bergkamp is the Gunners greatest number 10.

William Gallas - 2/10
Gallas wore the number 10 in what was an unconventional move for a centre-back (Image: Reuters)

While undoubtedly a talented defender, as his CV would suggest given his stints at London's three biggest clubs in Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, Gallas failed to win over the hearts of the Arsenal fanbase.

Whether it was due to his past ties with the Blues or his temperamental attitude, Gallas struggled to earn the affection of the Emirates crowd.

Many also questioned the reasoning behind Arsene Wenger handing a centre-back the number 10 shirt given that number is traditionally saved for creative, attacking players.

Who is Arsenal's best ever no. 10? Have your say in the comments below

However, Wenger shed light on his method to the madness when he explained: "I thought it might be a good idea to give the number ten to a defender, because a striker would suffer a lot with the comparison with Dennis.

"At first I was reluctant to give Dennis's number out, and especially to a defender, but overall I think it's better that way."

Gallas' tenure at Arsenal is best remembered for his on-pitch meltdown away at Birmingham during the 2007/08 campaign, where he refused to join his teammates in the dressing room after the full-time whistle.

So furious at the result and late capitulation was Gallas, he simply sat on the St Andrews turf in full view of both sets of supporters, providing one of the more memorable images of that season.

Robin van Persie - 6/10
Robin van Persie wore the number 10 during his best season at Arsenal (Image: Getty)

If this ranking system were done purely on ability, Van Persie would comfortably score higher - however, no Arsenal captain who ups sticks to fierce rivals Manchester United can be expected to be remembered fondly by the Gunners fanbase.

A remarkably gifted forward, Van Persie's time at Arsenal was seemingly spent either scoring world-class strikes or receiving attention on the treatment table.

Plagued with persistent injuries, the Dutchman's best season in an Arsenal shirt saw him single-handedly drag the Gunners into the Champions League qualification places, notching 30 goals in the Premier League alone during the 2011/12 season.

That effort saw him bag the title of PFA Player's Player of the year award, though his period at Arsenal earned him just one major trophy in the form of the 2005 FA Cup.

Claiming he was simply listening to the 'little boy inside of him' Van Persie swapped North London for Manchester in the summer of 2012, before spearheading United's Premier League victory that same season, adding further insult to injury for Arsenal supporters.

Jack Wilshere - 6/10
Jack Wilshere's Arsenal career was scuppered by injuries (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Tipped as England's next great midfield hope, Jack Wilshere possessed the kind of talent more commonly seen in the academies of European giants like Barcelona, such was his technical prowess from such an early age.

Breaking into Arsenal's first-team at the tender age of 16, Wilshere had all the hallmarks of a player destined to dominate the midfield for the next decade.

Alas, it wasn't to be for a midfielder that is best remembered for his heroics against Guardiola's Barca side in 2011, pitting himself up against the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi only to come out on top.

Wilshere's career was absolutely ravaged by injuries, missing 1,367 days of his Arsenal career through injury - a cruel demise for a player crowned PFA Young Player of the Year in 2011.

The England international spent much of his Arsenal career donning the number 19 shirt, before switching to the iconic number 10 upon Van Persie's controversial exit.

Mesut Özil - 7/10
Mesut Ozil was handed the number 10 shirt towards the back end of his Arsenal career (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Comfortably the most divisive player of the Emirates era, Ozil's name dominated Arsenal discourse for almost the entirety of his eight year stay at the club.

Ozil's Arsenal career is often remembered in two acts, the first coming in the early days, the excitement and fanfare that greeted his arrival.

The second is the acrimonious ending, hardly fit for a player of his quality, Ozil dropped from Arsenal's entire 25-man Premier League squad as the Gunners desperately tried to shift him off their wage books.

Whether it be his stunning goal against Ludogrets in the Champions League or his deft back-heeled assist for Olivier Giroud, Ozil never lost his ability to produce simply jaw-dropping moments.

When Ozil's stint in North London is looked back upon, it is vital fans remember his moments of genius, however fleeting they were, the Emirates had and has not seen a player like him before or after.

Emile Smith Rowe - 7/10
Emile Smith Rowe is Arsenal's latest number 10 after signing a new contract (Image: Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

It is difficult to sum up Smith Rowe's Arsenal career to date when there is clearly so much more to come, but the early signs have been incredibly promising.

For anyone who doubts the influence the youngster has had on this Arsenal side, point them in the direction of the form guide pre and post his introduction.

Smith Rowe has popped up with some big goals for this Arsenal side, including winners against Newcastle in the FA Cup and the only goal in a 1-0 away win over Chelsea, Arsenal's first league victory at Stamford Bridge in ten years.

If Smith Rowe can stray closer to Bergkamp than Gallas on the number 10 spectrum, there will be good times ahead for a fanbase who are crying out for yet another talented ten.

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