So far we’ve gone through some quite normal squad numbers but this week I thought I’d go a bit outside the box. With the number 19 not being too popular in the 20th century, we’ll be looking at players that have graced Highbury and The Emirates since the turn of the century. In that time, the number 19 has been passed down from midfielder to midfielder and first on my list is a World Cup winner by the name of Gilberto Silva.
Coming to the club in his World Cup winning year of 2002 from Atletico Minero for £4.5m, Gilberto stayed at Arsenal for six years, playing 258 games, scoring on 24 occasions and winning two F.A. Cups, two Community Shields as well as being part of the Invincibles side of 2004. He also helped us to the Champions League final in 2006.
The Brazilian made an instant impact upon his arrival, scoring in the 2002 Community Shield against Liverpool as a second half substitute. The next month he broke the record for the fastest goal scored in the Champions League with a strike against PSV after just 20.07 seconds. In Arsenal’s unbeaten season Gilberto played 32 times in the league and was a key component sitting in midfield while Patrick Vieira would venture forward. Unfortunately, a back injury would keep him out of action for most of the 2004-05 season but the following campaign would then see him captain the side in a Champions League game against Sparta Prague. He was then named Arsenal vice-captain as we moved to The Emirates, going on to score our first competitive goal at our new home against Aston Villa in a season that would see him score 10 league goals. His final season would see him drop down the pecking order thanks to Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini in midfield which led to his transfer to Panathinaikos in the summer of 2008.
Taking on the number 19 from Gilberto that summer was Academy graduate Jack Wilshere. So far Jack’s played 159 times for Arsenal making his debut as a sub away at Blackburn Rovers and arguably his best performances came wearing the number 19. 10 days after his competitive debut, he netted his first senior goal for the club in a 6-0 win over Sheffield United. The next season saw him get a loan spell at Bolton to get some Premier League experience, making make 14 appearances while out on loan, scoring once. Then was time for his most impressive full season in an Arsenal shirt to date. 2010-11 would see Wilshere play 49 times at just 18 & 19 years of age as he scooped the PFA Young Player of the Year award in a season which included an iconic performance in the 2-1 victory over Barcelona. Unfortunately, in the pre-season of 2011, Wilshere picked up the first of many long term injuries which have led to us only being able to see glimpses of the talent we’re all so desperate to see on a regular bases. Wilshere’s Arsenal future is currently at the most questionable it’s ever been at the moment with him being heavily linked with Sampdoria. No Arsenal fan would want to see Jack leave, but if it would see his career blossom then I guess they wouldn’t try to hold him back.
Next up is Santi Cazorla, another player whose been troubled by injury in recent years. Coming to the club from Villarreal in 2012 for £12.5m Cazorla has been a great servant to the club during his time here playing 182 games, scoring 29 goals and winning a few F.A. Cups. During his time with Arsenal the little Spaniard has become known for having next level technical ability with both feet to help retain possession as well as move the team up the pitch. Cazorla introduced himself as a two footer with his first Arsenal goal away at Liverpool, a driven left footed effort that was too hot for Pepe Reina to handle. Santi’s best, most underrated moment in an Arsenal shirt came in the F.A. Cup final of 2014. Already 2-0 down after two blinks against Hull City, Santi hit the perfect free-kick when it was needed most to give Arsenal hope to go on an win the cup and end the 9 year trophy drought. With Cazorla now picking up season ending injuries twice it’s become glaringly obvious how important he is in the Arsenal midfield as he controls games, and with another recovery setback the task without doubt is to find someone in that Cazorla mould to help improve the squad, but that can be discussed another time.
I hope you enjoyed this week, I’ll be back next Saturday for another edition.