Can Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang end the ‘curse’ of Chelsea’s number nine shirt?

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Chelsea have handed new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the number nine shirt after manager Thomas Tuchel recently joked his players think it is “cursed”.

The last 11 players to wear the shirt – including three club record signings up front, but also a holding midfielder and a defender – have struggled to make a prolonged impact at Stamford Bridge.

“It’s cursed, it’s cursed, people tell me it’s cursed!” said Tuchel last month. “There was not a big demand for number nine, nobody wants to touch it.”

Here, the PA news agency looks back at the trend ex-Arsenal man Aubameyang will try to buck.

Romelu Lukaku, 2021-22

The most recent and high-profile failure saw Lukaku return from Inter Milan for a second spell at the club, with the £97.5million fee exceeded in English football only by Jack Grealish’s move to Manchester City and ranking seventh all-time worldwide. He was expected to spearhead an improved attack under Tuchel, but by December his frustrations became clear in an interview with Sky Sport Italia. He had a record-low seven touches for a full Premier League game in February’s win over Crystal Palace and, while he managed 15 goals in all competitions, it was no surprise when he returned to Inter this summer to vacate the shirt.

Tammy Abraham, 2019-21

Tammy Abraham, right, scores against Arsenal
Tammy Abraham enjoyed a prolific spell (John Walton/PA)

Gonzalo Higuain, 2018-19

One of a series of short-term occupants of the prestigious shirt, the Argentinian’s loan from Juventus yielded five goals in 18 appearances. He was shunted to number 21 on his return to Juve and terminated his contract early the following season to move to MLS side Inter Miami.

Alvaro Morata, 2017-18

Alvaro Morata
Alvaro Morata spent only one season wearing the famous digit (Adam Davy/PA)

Radamel Falcao, 2015-16

Another one-year custodian of the digit, the Colombian scored once in 12 games in an injury-hit season.

Fernando Torres, 2011-14

Fernando Torres
Fernando Torres was a long-term occupant of the shirt (Nick Potts/PA)

Franco Di Santo, 2008-09

Fourteen scoreless appearances, all from the bench, were all Di Santo had to show for his time in west London before moving on to Blackburn and Wigan and then departing the Premier League.

Steve Sidwell, 2007-08

The former Reading midfielder managed only 24 appearances, scoring his only goal for the club in a League Cup win over Hull. A largely defensive player, he would have been a stunningly unlikely wearer of the number nine shirt had it not been for his immediate predecessor…

Khalid Boulahrouz, 2006-07

Khalid Boulahrouz, left, is unveiled at Chelsea alongside manager Jose Mourinho
Khalid Boulahrouz was an unlikely number nine (Max Nash/PA)

Hernan Crespo, 2005-06

The Argentina striker had already spent a season at Stamford Bridge wearing number 21, scoring 12 goals, and a year on loan at AC Milan before Mourinho recalled him and gave him the number nine as a show of faith. He added a further 13 goals and a league title but failed to earn a long-term stay, instead returning to his earlier employers Inter Milan.

Mateja Kezman, 2004-05

Inheriting the shirt from Hasselbaink, Kezman failed to make a similar impact with just seven goals in his sole season.

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