The history of Sambi Lokonga’s #23

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New Arsenal signing Albert Sambi Lokonga will be the 11th player to wear the number 23 shirt for the Gunners since fixed squad numbers were introduced for Premier League clubs in 1993.

Big things are expected of the 21-year-old midfielder following his £18m transfer from Anderlecht as part of wider crucial squad rebuild at the Emirates Stadium.

Here’s a look back at those Arsenal number 23s that have come before him…

Ray Parlour was Arsenal’s first #23 of the Premier League era / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Ray Parlour started his career at Arsenal and was just 20 when he became the first ever player to wear number 23 for the club in the Premier League.

He kept it until the summer of 1995 when he acquired the number 15 shirt that he is more widely known for.

Paul Dickov started at Arsenal before making his name elsewhere / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Paul Dickov was scouted by Arsenal as a teenager but ultimately only played sparingly for the first-team before he was sold to Manchester City for close to £1m in August 1996.

Dickov spent six years in Manchester, before moving on to Leicester and Blackburn.

Alberto Mendez was plucked from obscurity by Arsene Wenger but never established himself / Ben Radford/Getty Images

Arsene Wenger plucked unknown midfielder Alberto Mendez from regional German football in 1997. But despite being on Arsenal’s books until 2002 he played only a handful of games.

After 1999, the remainder of his time at the club was spent out on loan.

Stephen Hughes wore 28, 16 & 23 for Arsenal / Getty Images/Getty Images

Stephen Hughes was Arsenal’s great home-grown hope of the mid-1990s and played 28 times in all competitions during the 1997/98 double season.

He was assigned the number 23 shirt in the summer of 1999, although he was soon loaned to Fulham and then sold to Everton within a few months.

Nelson Vivas was only ever a back-up player with Arsenal / Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Arsenal had big hopes for Nelson Vivas when he joined from Boca Juniors for a not insignificant £1.5m shortly after being a starter for Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.

He initially wore number seven, before leaving for a loan spell at Celta Vigo midway through his second season, and took 23 on his return.


Sol Campbell moved to Arsenal from Spurs in 2001 / Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Sol Campbell completed one of the most controversial transfers in English football history when he moved as a free agent to Arsenal from Tottenham in 2001.

The England centre-back chose the same number 23 shirt he had previously worn for Spurs until 1999.

Andrey Arshavin scored four goals against Liverpool in 2009 / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

After Campbell left in 2006, no player wore Arsenal’s number 23 shirt until Russian star Andrey Arshavin joined the club in January 2009.

His career with the Gunners was mixed but included an iconic four-goal haul in a 4-4 draw with Liverpool only a few months after he arrived.

Nicklas Bendtner wore #23 in his final season for Arsenal / GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Nicklas Bendtner’s squad number history at Arsenal was odd. He was wearing 26 when he became a first-team regular, but swapped that to 52 a few years later, insisting it was special to him.

He later spent time on loan at Sunderland when it appeared that his Arsenal career was petering out, then bizarrely joined Juventus, before returning to his parent club for one final season in a new shirt.

Danny Welbeck struggled with injuries at Arsenal / OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Injury hell meant that Danny Welbeck only twice played more than 16 Premier League games in his five seasons as an Arsenal player.

The forward was seen as a smart signing when Manchester United deemed him surplus to requirements in 2014, although Arsenal rarely saw him at his best.

Arsenal fans saw the good and bad sides of David Luiz / Marc Atkins/Getty Images

David Luiz was something of a shock signing for Arsenal in the summer of 2019, costing an estimated £8m from Chelsea to bring some experience to an evolving Gunners defence.

Perhaps as expected, the Brazilian was both good and bad, winning the FA Cup but also setting a Premier League record for most penalties conceded in a single season.

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