By Jim Hearson
We’re into the final stretch of the Coupe now, and as players increasingly grow less interested in 1-11 shirts, how has that affected our little renumbering project?
2012: Chelsea 2 Liverpool 1
After a year off, Chelsea are back and, well, they’re not too different from last time out – but there are a few crucial changes. At the back, Branislav Ivanovic (2) was playing at centre-back this year, taking his number with him, so Jose Bosingwa (17) can make do with 4 this time round, leaving 5 free for Mikel Jon Obi (12) in a holding midfield role.
Further forward, Didier Drogba wearing 11 causes the same issues as previously, but at least Salomon Kalou (21) sporting 9 doesn’t look as incongruous as Mikel wearing it, as he would have done in 2007 had we had our way.
2013: Manchester City 0 Wigan Athletic 1
Wigan sparked off all manner of discussions about the romance of the cup when they beat Citeh and gave us a lot of new playthings… some more welcome than others.
Starting with L’Eléphant in the room – Arouna Koné wearing 2 up front. Antolin Alcaraz sporting 3 at centreback isn’t ideal either, but at least it’s in the ballpark. Alongside him was Paul Scharner (33), in his second spell at the club – at the end of his first run, he wore 7, and as incongruous as that is, he can have it back on this occasion.
Outside of them, Emmerson Boyce (17) and Roger Espinoza (18) never showed any affection for any 1-11 numbers, so they can sport 6 and 5 respectively, given they’re the lowest remaining numbers and Espinoza wore 15 for a lot of his career, so that’s close enough.
Fortunately, things get a little easier further forwards – central midfielder Jame McArthur (16) can halve his usual number and sport 8, Jordi Gomez (14) can wear 11 out on the left, while Callum McManaman (15) will have to make do with 9.
2014: Arsenal 3 Hull City 2
There were no survivors from Arsenal’s last victory, but they kept their squad numbers relatively tidy, so filling in the gaps could have been much harder.
Clearly, Lukasz Fabianski (21) will take 1, but Bacary Sagna hogging three means that Kieran Gibbs (28) will have to wear 2 on the other side of the defence. As is often the case, a 4-6 centreback pairing causes issues with number 5, and this time Aaron Ramsey (16) is going to be the lucky recipient.
Beyond that, we’re cruising down Easy Street – Santi Cazorla (19) can slip on 7, while Olivier Giroud (12) is left with 10.
2015: Arsenal 4 Aston Villa 0
Just a year passed before the Gunners next graced the Wembley turf for the FA Cup final, but their team had seen a number of changes.
For our purposes, Hector Bellerin (39) will don the 2 shirt that he would later adopt for real, while Nacho Monreal (18) can claim 3 from Gibbs, who had been promoted from 28 the previous summer.
The question over number 5 returns, but Francis Coquelin (34) is a suitable recipient in defensive midfield. For number 8, there’s more of a battle: while Ramsey (16) wore it during his latter years at Arsenal – as well as at Juventus – Cazorla (19) was playing deeper this year and frequently wore it at Villarreal. Plus Ramsey always wears 10 for Wales, so he can have it in this game too.
Typically, this time we have 9 free for a striker – ideal for Giroud (12), but he wasn’t playing, so the responsibility falls to Theo Walcott (14). That just leaves us with Alexis Sanchez (17) nabbing 7, as he would do for the vast majority of both his club and international career.
2016: Crystal Palace 1 Manchester United 2
Having to renumber six players isn’t abnormal in this little quest of ours, but there’s something a little awkward about the figures we have to play with on this occasion.
It’s tempting to give Antonio Valencia (25) the number 7 he briefly wore at Old Trafford, but we’re already having enough issues, so he can wear 2 like a sensible right-back. Marcos Rojo (5) screws things up a bit on the other side, but giving Daley Blind (17) the traditional Dutch number 3 at centre-back feels comfortable. Beside him, Chris Smalling (12) has only just made 6 his own at Roma, but that’s good enough for us – possession is nine-tenths of the law, as they say.
That has a knock-on effect on Michael Carrick (16), who did wear 6 at West Ham before they retired it, but 4 for a defensive midfielder isn’t beyond the pale. In front of him, Marouane Fellaini (27) can reverse Zamorano the 25 he’s known for wearing to take the 7 shirt in this instance, while Marcus Rashford (39) has worn 11 enough times on international duty that he should be comfortable wearing it here.
2017: Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
We all know that Arsenal are the most successful team in FA Cup history, but this series has only served to underline just how many times they’ve won relatively recently – squad numbers clearly suit them.
That said, there’s a lot of sorting out to do for 2017, with a 3-4-3 formation mixing things up a bit. Once David Ospina (13) has taken 1, we’ll flank Per Mertesacker (4) with usual left-back Nacho Montreal (18) in 3 and Rob Holding (16) in 5, which will look pleasing on the lineup, if nothing else.
For the midfield four, it’s time to go a bit rogue – once you’ve placed 2 on its eventual owner, Hector Bellerin (24), we’re going to let Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (15) live his best Roberto Carlos life (with a side of reverse Zamarano) by wearing 6, while defensive hardnut of a centre midfielder, Granit Khaka (29) will wear 10. Before you come with the burning torches, it is his regular national team number, so feel free to direct your ire at the Swiss.
That just leaves Danny Welbeck (23) to inherit the oft-cursed 9 shirt from *checks notes* Lucas Perez. If ever you need a case in point…
2018: Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0
It may only be six years since Chelsea’s last appearance, but it’s all change, with a completely different starting XI and subs since last time around. That’s got rid of some of the legacy issues we’ve seen previously, leaving us with something pretty satisfying.
Again, we’re starting by switching a keeper in 13 to 1, with Thibaut Courtois doing the honours this time around, and again, we have three at the back. Toni Rudiger (2) makes things a little awkward – it would be better on Cesar Azpilicueta (28) – but the Spaniard can make do with 6, while Gary Cahill (24) can reacquaint himself with the 5 shirt he wore for Bolton and England.
Elsewhere, Tiemoue Bakayoko (14) may not have any affinity with 8, but he’s a centre midfielder, so it fits. 11 doesn’t really fit a right wing-back, but as it’s Victor Moses (15) and that’s the number he wore at Wigan and for Nigeria, it works in this context.
Up top, Giroud (12) finally gets his hands on the number 9 shirt – his regular number for France, but he’s had to wait until his move to AC Milan to wear it for real during his club career.
2019: Manchester City 6 Watford 0
This Manchester City team had evolved somewhat since the club’s last victory at the start of the decade – but there was one survivor, who we’ll get to later.
First things first, another goalkeeper change as Ederson (31) peels one of the digits from his shirt to take 1, while the rest of the defence sorts itself – no chance we’re letting Oleksandr Zinchenko (35) wear the 11 he wears in reality – you’ll have 3 and like it, son – while Aymeric Laporte (14) can have 5 and if you haven’t worked out why by now, you haven’t been paying attention.
Skipping to the forward line, Gabriel Jesus (33) would ultimately end up in 9, so that’s what will happen here, while Riyad Mahrez (26) can balance out Raheem Sterling (7) on the other flank by wearing 11.
Back into midfield and the 2011 survivor, David Silva (21). As we established last time, he’s never really found kinship with a first XI number and Bernardo Silva (20) wears 10 for Portugal, so we should give Silva the Spaniard 6, right? Hmm… no. That just feels wrong. The Silva from western Iberia seems to suit it better (in our minds) and David just feels like a number 10, so that’s what he’ll have here.
2020: Arsenal 2 Chelsea 1
Yup, them again. However, despite there only being three survivors from the last time they won, it’s possible to get the 1-11 numbers lined up in the exact same way and for it all to be logical.
So, that’s Emi Martinez (26) in 1, David Luiz (23) in 4 – his number for Chelsea and Brazil – while Holding can keep the 5 that he wore in 2017.
Next up, Bellerin has finally claimed 2 for real, while Xhaka can retain 10 from last time. Outside of him, we’ve got another double-barrelled left wing-back wearing 15 – this time, it’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles who will wear 6 – and inside of him, it’s Dani Ceballos in 8.
Up top, with an actual number 9 in place, it’s just a matter of assigning 7 and 11. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (14) can have half his usual number, while Nicholas Pepe (19) is VERY left-footed, so it makes sense for him to take 11.
2021: Chelsea 0 Leicester City 1
From perennial winners to first-timers – welcome to the party, Leicester City. They obviously know what we like too, with sensibly numbered goalkeeper and back three, although the latter does bring back the issue of what to do with the number 5 shirt?
Well, given he’s been shunted to centre-back in other games and already has the digit on his shirt, it makes sense to give it to Wilfred Ndidi (25) on this occasion. Timothy Castagne (27) in 2 writes itself, but Luke Thomas (33) is a bit more tricky. Given that 3 and 6 aren’t in the picture, his left-sidedness and his existing double number means he’s going to end up with 11 here.
Finally, Ayoze Perez’s (17) position in the hole means that 10 wouldn’t look out of place on him – despite him not really being a David-Silva-esque magician – while Kelechi Iheanacho (14) seems comfortable with his current number for club and country, so he can follow in Aubameyang’s footsteps and half it to wear 7 here.
And that’s your lot – all the winners of the FA Cup in the squad numbers era reassigned 1 to 11. I think we can all agree that all our lives have been thoroughly enriched by the process… now let’s never speak of it again.
MOJ edit: Well, because I didn’t manage to have everything done in time for the start of the 2022 final, let’s speak of it again to add Liverpool, who beat Chelsea on penalties.
2021: Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0 (aet, Liverpool won 6-5 on penalties)
The absence of Fabinho, wears number 3 in midfield for Liverpool, makes this a fairly straightforward conversion. The full-backs take the traditional numbers that they have passed on in real life and, while 7 is historically associated with great Liverpool strikers, the fact that 7 and 9 are worn by a midfielder and attacker – James Milner and Roberto Firmino respectively – makes it logical for Jordan Henderson to have his friend’s digit and Luis Díaz to be given 9.