With Chelsea announcing squad numbers for players, 17 changes have been made to shirt numbers, out of which two numbers stand out as the most significant, one for being taken and another for being vacant.
Any narrative, no matter how judicious it seems to be, is after all just a narrative. Chelsea and non-Chelsea fans seem to push and agree vehemently with the narrative of the “cursed number 9 shirt” at Chelsea, and it is something that cannot be completely overlooked as an inane fan-theory gossip and just another narrative.
The recent news of Chelsea’s new signing, Nicolas Jackson taking the number 15 shirt has seen some raised eyebrows and chit-chats on X, as fans were quick to point out that the number 9 is still available.
Whether the number 9 is out of reach for the Gambian-born, Senegalese forward is a separate debate, as a potentially Lukaku-Vlahovic transfer swap is gaining attention, notwithstanding recent media reports claiming Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino is unconvinced of Vlahovic’s talent.
The main question remains if Nicolas Jackson chose number 15 over number 9 and even if he did, is this a smart move? Fans say yes, as recent history paints a very menacing picture.
Since the dawn of the Premier League, the number 9 shirt hasn’t favored any Chelsea player barring the likes of Gianluca Vialli and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, rather most of them were considered disastrous signings.
Starting with Tony Cascarino in the early 90s and maintaining undesired consistency during the Roman Abramovich era with the likes of Hernan Crespo, Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao, Alvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuain, Tammy Abraham, and last but not the least, the forever confused Romelo Lukaku, all high profiles signings failing to make a mark at Stamford Bridge, thus adding strength to the narrative.
On the other hand, Chelsea’s 100 million (including potential add-ons) record signing under the Todd Boehly era, Ukrainian international Mykhailo Mudryk, is being vested with the number 10 shirt which was once worn by arguably Chelsea’s greatest-ever player, Eden Hazard.
Chelsea fans couldn’t hold their excitement to see the pacey winger in action when he was signed this January from FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
It’s safe to say he hasn’t fulfilled the high expectations he is burdened with, however considering the messy transfer window under Boehly coupled with manager changes has made it difficult for the newcomers to settle in comfortably.
Nevertheless, this season with a barrage of players leaving the club, with a majority going to Saudi Arabia, the squad has been trimmed and doesn’t look superfluous as it was last season.
Besides that, Mauricio Pochettino is expected to build a team that can challenge for the top 4 from a pool of extremely talented young players at his disposal.
With the pre-season still ongoing for Chelsea, it seems like Mudryk has the trust of his manager as he is featured in the starting eleven quite often and the number 10 shirt is symbolic of that trust.
With 0 goals to his name, while playing for the Blues, he would surely like to change the discomforting stat when the Premier League starts and fans are eager to see his magic at the left flank once dominated by the Belgian Wizard.