Twice in four years.
Nottingham Forest have now enjoyed upsetting the odds over us twice, in two different cups, in four years.
The latest cupset came at the City Ground, as a strong, well represented Arsenal side took to the pitch and surrendered meekly in the face of fight, inspiration and mettle. To say Nottingham Forest deserved it was an understatement. Arsenal were unrecognisable in defeat – and it had nothing to do with their unconventional white strips.
Did the unfamiliar colour combination have an effect on their display? It would be wholly unfair to suggest Forest won because of anything but sheer hard work, but there is certainly some evidence to suggest that clubs do perform unfavourably when asked to play in colours not synonymous with the team.
Just look at our previous defeat to Forest. It was a League Cup fixture in 2018 and Arsenal were wearing their third shirt, the light blue number. Yep, the one we struggled to win whilst wearing. And we flopped miserably as Forest ran out 4-2 victors.
Remember the dark blue one, with the gold, white and light blue stripes? The one from 2015-16 – I seem to remember us fans begging not to see it again as our win record was particularly woeful.
And we have had white kits before this special, one-off shirt. Three. We had the recent away shirt with the red, which featured a marbling effect. There was the white with the redcurrant collar in 2007/08…
And there was the 09/10 away shirt too, with the faint stripes. Easily forgotten.
And each one was met with at best, mild curiosity. Because we all know that our unsavoury neighbours wear that colour. It just doesn’t sit well with us.
However, the anti-knife support that this latest, one-off shirt was released for? That is something we can ALL get behind and the move to remove the red is something that should be heralded.
But it does beg the question – how much of our performance comes from what we wear?
Do the Hale End boys get an extra 5-10% when they pull on the shirt they have been dreaming of since they were kids? Does seeing the famous red and white – or the yellow and blue on cup days perhaps – make players pull their socks up and have pride in their displays?
Let us not forget what club icon ‘Gentleman’ Bob Wilson said about wearing the shirt;
And so, there seems to be some form of mental link between the shirt they don and the performance they put in.
Remember United’s excuse when they were hammered by Southampton back in the 90s? They claimed that they couldn’t see each other because of their grey kit. They were allowed to change at half time, but still lost 6-3.
But it isn’t often a home kit is messed around with. They are sacrosanct. They are the club colours, essentially the DNA of the team.
So it should be that club consultants would work closely with kit manufacturers to ensure a certain consistency is maintained throughout.
But who is to say this will not eventually be whittled down to an eventual red and white stripe around one arm, as we give way to the lure of the lucre?
Our defeats, spaced four years apart, may well appear to have some form of affect from the shirts we were wearing, but even if we were to have worn our home kits in these games – anyone who witnessed both games could tell you – we would still have lost.
While there does seem to be a grain of truth in the old adage “you are what you wear,” Arsenal only have themselves to blame for such a lacklustre performance, especially as it contrasts so much with the recent recovery we have put in during our League performances.
As we were dumped out of the Cup we love so much, during a season with no European football to clog the calendar, it is understandable some of us attributed the shocking performance to our lack of familiar colours.
Understandable, but wrong.
Check out the absolutely wonderful Arsenal book, The Arsenal Shirt, for a glorious look back through why our shirt is so very special.