A couple of seasons ago, to great uproar, they released a white Arsenal shirt. Not the first white Arsenal shirt by any means but a shirt that, if you squinted and, er, looked at it from 200 metres away, would be entirely indistinguishable from a shirt of The Gunners' North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Reaction was huge, publicity was even more huge, sales, well, let's have a think...
Next season, Arsenal will wear white away from home (or "3rd") again. But this time the full kit won't be a white and redcurrant pseudo-reversal of their home colours. No, this time the shirt has only hints of colouring and the shorts will be slate grey (I won't indulge whatever Nike have called it). Slate grey... time to get squinting again. Surely that'll look a little bit too much like a dark blue? Like Tottenham Hotspur wear. Y'know, like Arsenal are wearing their biggest rivals' whole kit in away matches.
For the record, the shirt's classy, it does have redcurrant pinstripes, it has a good cut and a proper collar. The team has actually worn the full kit too and it doesn't necessarily make you think of Spurs right away. But isn't there a principle here?
The fact is, teams and manufacturers alike need to rotate kit designs and that involves using new colours each season for the change strips. They make kits to sell and if the white has returned then it means that last time it sold well. Did it and does it please the diehard guys in the flatcaps whose visible affiliation comes in the form of a 25-year-old bar scarf and a pin badge? No, but their controlled-price season ticket (if they still renew it) is not a prime example of how Arsenal pay back banks or pay Arshavin's wages.
And so, yes, next season Arsenal will wear red shirts without white sleeves, all blue or white and grey. Because new kits sell. Last summer the "Anfield kit" would have been popular with almost all but kits change and their statistics must tell them, Nikesenal that is, that the change should be significant.
And they're not the only team. Manchester United have been wearing blue again recently and next season their away shirt will carry a blue chevron, so maybe the approach is aimed at distant markets. A conversation in a pub in Bangkok is best for Manchester United if two gentleman expressing love for the Manchester teams that wear red and blue respectively are in fact talking about the same club. Same for the three men in Tokyo who like the London teams that wear red, white and blue. Turn that plural into the right singular and Arsenal are laughing.
But there's surely a limit. Would Rangers accept a green and white hooped third shirt from their supplier, Nike-owned Umbro? Could traditionalists in the East End stomach a blue Celtic shirt? Even, say, to promote the Nil by Mouth campaign? I doubt it. But would I buy the latter? In a heartbeat.