Definitely Real: Can Lucas Perez avoid the CURSE of Arsenal’s No.9 shirt??
Arsenal fans are always superstitious, but it’s easy to see why they now fear for players who wear the no.9 after a shocking run of players whoever has donned that shirt.
Lucas Perez is the latest to take it for Arsenal after his move from Deportivo La Coruna this summer, and that looks a brave move considering the fortunes of the Gunners’ recent 9s.
Whether it’s injuries, poor form, or a bit of both, players who take that shirt for the north Londoners just seem to end up doing badly, and many feel Perez already has a lot of work to do to impress at the Emirates Stadium after only winding up at the club as Arsene Wenger’s fourth-choice striker target in the transfer window just gone.
Here’s a look at what he’s up against and when most Gooners feel the curse begun…
Nicolas Anelka (1997-99)
A fine player for Arsenal, but Nicolas Anelka seemed to start the rot in terms of Arsenal number 9s, forcing a move to Real Madrid after just two seasons as a first-teamer for Wenger’s side in acrimonious circumstances.
There are mixed stories about just how far the Frenchman went to push through his big move to Spain, but none paint the player in a particularly good light, and although his exit allowed the club to revamp their training facilities AND sign a certain Thierry Henry, many fans feel this ugly episode has ruined the number 9 shirt forever at Arsenal.
Davor Suker (1999-00)
Spending just one season at Highbury, Davor Suker arrived past his peak as part of the deal that took Anelka to Real Madrid.
Needless to say, this was not a particularly wise move on Arsenal’s part, as he managed just eight Premier League goals in his single season with the club, before departing for another uneventful spell with West Ham.
Francis Jeffers (2001-03)
Arriving as a top prospect after some flashes of brilliance at Everton, Francis Jeffers was described as a ‘fox in the box’ by Wenger, and duly took the traditional striker’s number 9 jersey.
You all know the story by now, however, with the one-time England international proving to be well out of his depth with the Gunners and scored only four Premier League goals in two seasons with the club.
A journeyman career around the lower leagues has followed, with the famous flop retiring back in 2013 after a brief stint at Accrington Stanley in League Two.
Jose Antonio Reyes (2004-2006)
A real statement signing at the time, Jose Antonio Reyes just never settled in England and has to go down as one of the most disappointing stories of the Wenger era.
The Spanish forward had immense natural talent, as he showed at his first club Sevilla, but couldn’t adjust to being away from his hometown, as well as to the more physical nature of the Premier League.
Lasting just two and a half seasons, Reyes ended up back in La Liga, first on loan at Real Madrid and then across the city with Atletico, before eventually returning home to Seville in 2012.
Julio Baptista (2006-07)
Next to take the cursed number 9 shirt was Julio Baptista, who joined Arsenal on a season-long loan as Reyes moved in the opposite direction to Real Madrid.
The bulky Brazilian was not all he cracked up to be, despite being nicknamed ‘The Beast’ in Spain for his physical and commanding performances, looking distinctly off the pace in English football and scoring just three Premier League goals.
He did, however, have that one excellent game at Anfield, where he netted an incredible four times in a famous 6-3 win for the Gunners.
Cursed in the sense that he was on the receiving end of a horror injury, Eduardo was undoubtedly one of Wenger’s better purchases for the number 9 shirt in recent years.
Still, the Brazilian-born Croatian never really recovered after that shocking challenge from Martin Taylor in a game at Birmingham City in 2008, going on to play just 24 more league games and scoring only three more goals.
A sad waste of talent and another destiny Lucas Perez will be hoping to avoid. Eduardo’s leg was broken in a 2-2 draw at Birmingham City.
Park Chu-Young (2011-12)
One of the most bizarre signings of the Wenger era, Park Chu-Young arrived in that mad summer of 2011 when Arsenal seemed to lose all sense in the transfer market, also signing Andre Santos and Yossi Benayoun in a last-minute scramble for players.
Given the number 9 shirt, one would have expected Park to have a role to play in the first-team, but he played just one Premier League game and seemed to almost instantly look like a signing Wenger regretted. Never mind.
Lukas Podolski (2012-2015)
It might seem a little harsh to apply the ‘curse’ theory to Lukas Podolski, who was a successful signing and popular player in his two and a half years at the Emirates Stadium, even if he never truly did himself justice with his displays.Lukas Podolski never showed more than flashes of brilliance for Arsenal.
Some cracking strikes with that thunderous left foot aside, the German often went disappearing in important games, and had his own niggling injury problems that prevented him from really hitting the heights he’d done elsewhere.
Basically, a return of 19 league goals in 60 appearances isn’t really enough from an attacker wearing the number 9 shirt for a big club, and Perez will have to be a significant improvement on some of these recent flops to justify this show of faith from Wenger.
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