Odegaard to Arsenal: How have the Gunners’ previous No.11s fared?

James Shearman
  • Updated: 19 May 2021 15:43 BST
  • 3 min read
Odegaard to Arsenal: How have the Gunners’ previous No.11s fared?

The arrival of Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid means Arsenal’s number 11 shirt is now occupied once more.

The 22-year-old enters the company of both international superstars and well-known transfer flops who have worn the shirt, and with just six months to prove himself the Norwegian won’t have long to make his mark. So, who is Odegaard taking on the mantle of?

Robin Van Persie (04/05-09/10)

Van Persie left Feyenoord for Arsenal in 2004 for £2.75 million in what has to be considered one of the bargains of the Premier League era. The Dutchman signed as a long-term replacement for compatriot Dennis Bergkamp, but soon found himself leading the line at the Emirates.

“He can play on the left side of midfield, as a creative player behind the main strikers or as a target man,” manager Arsene Wenger said. But, Wenger ultimately chose to convert the winger into a centre forward, as he had previously done with Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.

Van Persie excelled in the role, scoring a club record 35 goals in 2011, earning the captain’s armband for the following season. However, the Dutchman was never able to accumulate silverware at Arsenal, with only an FA Community Shield and the 2004-05 FA Cup to show for his time. This became the reason for his departure to rivals Manchester United, to the disappoint of many Arsenal fans, where he won a Premier League title in his first season at Old Trafford.

Carlos Vela (10/11)

Vela finished top scorer at the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship, earning a move to Arsenal later that year. Although, work permit issues meant that the Mexican had to endure a series of loans, before returning to the club in 2008.

Vela did once score a hat-trick in a 6-0 win over Sheffield United in the League Cup, with his second making it as one of ‘Arsenal’s Greatest 50 Goals,’ but that’s about all the forward achieved. Vela took the No.11 shirt before the start of the 2010/11 campaign and then gave it up midway through as he went on loan to West Brom for the remainder of the season.

Andre Santos (11/12-12/13)

On 31 August 2011, Santos signed for Arsenal from Turkish club Fenerbahce for a fee of £6.3m . He made his debut on 13th September, as a late substitute, and scored his first goal on 28th September in a 2-1 win over Olympiacos in the Champions League.

The Brazilian then scored an equaliser against West Brom towards the end of the season, arguably the highlight of a dismal spell at the club. Santos’ legacy at Arsenal could be that he swapped shirts with ex-Gunner captain Robin van Persie at half-time following on a poor performance in the first 45 minutes.

Mesut Ozil (13/14-17/18)

Arsenal pulled off the then-club record £42.3m transfer of Ozil from Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2013, making the world-class playmaker the most expensive German player of all time. However, Ozil split opinion at the Emirates with his undoubted class but sometimes questionable wok ethic.

Nevertheless, the signing was a resounding success for the club, as the pair of Ozil and Alexiz Sanchez brought silverware to the Emirates after a nine-year drought, in the form of three FA Cups. Ozil remains one of the best creative midfielders the league has seen, recording 19 assists in a single Premier League season. But, his critics will always say he could’ve done more, particularly against tougher opposition.

Ozil’s departure left a sour taste, unregistered for an Arsenal team in need of creativity and frozen out of the club for reasons possibly outside of football. The German almost completely ran down his £350,000-a-week contract before joining Fenerbahce in January 2021.

Lucas Torreira (18/19)

Torreira signed for Arsenal in July 2018, assuming the No.11 shirt from Mesut Ozil, who had taken the vacant number 10 following Jack Wilshere’s departure.

The Uruguayan international produced some high-calibre performances in his first season at Arsenal, including man-of-the-match displays against Liverpool and north London rivals Tottenham. In fact, after scoring a late winner against Huddersfield Town, Torreira picked up his fifth consecutive man of the match award.

However, the feisty midfielder failed to earn a regular place in Unai Emery’s side the next season but made his return to the team under new manager Mikel Arteta. Had it not been for a season-ending ankle injury sustained in an FA Cup win over Portsmouth, Torreira may still be at the Emirates but was instead loaned to Atletico Madrid as part of the Gunners’ deal to sign Thomas Partey.