Two offers for Emile Smith Rowe from Aston Villa and two different players offered the number 10 shirt that’s meant to be going to the midfielder in his new contract, so what’s really going on?

Emile Smith Rowe mocked up shirt
Emile Smith Rowe mocked up shirt

When Martin Odegaard arrived at Arsenal, he didn’t take the number 10 shirt as it wouldn’t be available the following season, should he stay. He opted for 11 instead. The 10 was meant to be going to Emile Smith Rowe when he renewed his Arsenal contract in the summer.

Emile Smith Rowe’s contract renewal, while expected for some time, has still not happened, encouraging Aston Villa to keep coming back with offers for the player. With no disrespect meant to Villa, you have to think that if Arsenal were seriously open to selling Smith Rowe, there would be other clubs higher up the football tree trying to get their hands on him.

As part of his new deal at Arsenal, the number 10 shirt was reportedly being waved in front of Smith Rowe. The iconic shirt has been vacant since Arsenal finally forced Mesut Ozil from the club at the start of the year.

In the last week, however, two players have been linked with Arsenal’s number 10 shirt, with the shirt playing quite a prominent role in the rumour in ways you don’t normally see.

First, Arsenal were said to be offering Alexandre Lacazette the 10 shirt, along with a year’s extension, which makes zero sense as he already wears the 9 and will likely leave next summer anyway.

And that’s if Arsenal don’t sell him this summer, with Ian McGarry telling the Transfer Window Podcast that Arsenal are being ‘aggressive’ in their bids to sell some senior players, one of whom is Lacazette.

“Arsenal are desperately, desperately, and as we said aggressively, marketing some of their higher-paid players in order to put money back into the budget with regards to how the club moves forward,” McGarry said.

“Alexandre Lacazette is one of the players they are desperate to sell.

“In doing so they would get a transfer fee, they don’t mind if the fee was obviously less than what they paid for the player.

“Because his contract is so expensive, they would happily accept a lower fee in order to get him off the wage bill, and in doing so make room for younger players who Mikel Arteta has identified as the future of Arsenal, rather than the present or the past.

“So Arsenal very much in a position where they need to sell before they can buy.”

Lacazette did wear the 10 at Lyon for five seasons, but he’s worn the 9 at Arsenal for the same length of time.

Then, on Saturday, we had a report that Leicester City’s James Maddison was being offered double his salary and, shock horror, the number 10 shirt.

James Maddison links via TheAFCBell
James Maddison links via TheAFCBell

Arsenal have been linked with James Maddison since at least 2016 when he was a Coventry player and they were back having a look in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

When the most recent links started appearing, there was no mention of offering him the number 10 shirt – nor has it been mentioned in any of the rumours previously – because most transfer rumours don’t focus on shirt numbers or care that much about them.

Maddison only moved permanently to the 10 shirt when he signed for Leicester in 2018. Before that, he’d worn it just once, back in 15/16 when at Coventry, before moving to Norwich, where he wore 23.

Of course, I have nothing to back any of this up, just a gut feeling after years of covering transfer rumours. The number 10 shirt is no doubt a nice bonus for a player, but it’s hardly likely to be the thing that seals any move. No player thinks ‘I’d have liked to go to Arsenal but they won’t give me the shirt number I want, so I won’t bother.’

It feels to me like Smith Rowe’s agent is using Aston Villa to get his client a better deal at Arsenal and, every time they put in a bid, Arsenal leak to the media that they are going to give the 10 shirt to someone else.

Smith Rowe is an Arsenal boy and the 10 will mean more to him than Maddison or Lacazette or anyone else for that matter.

It will be interesting to watch if a third Aston Villa bid does arrive for Smith Rowe, if a third player is, conveniently, linked with Arsenal’s number 10 shirt.