Ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Basel, Arsenal revealed that, despite being at home, they would have to wear their yellow change kit.
It’s a bit ironic that a club that often changes for no reason (as at Leicester City in the above picture, or when they wore their navy and yellow third at Watford) are having to do so in an unusual situation. Despite UEFA being left with an unsatisfactory kit match-up when Atletico Madrid played Barcelona last season, they allowed Basel not to submit a third kit, so this is something which could cause more trouble against other teams with red-and-white or blue-and-white kits.
As mentioned in the piece above – and then slavishly copied by plenty of other outlets, with no further research – Arsenal have changed at home in the past against Benfica in 1991 and Lens in 1998, but there have been other instances too.
Going way back, when a colour-clash occurred in the FA Cup both teams would change, so understandably there are plenty of examples from before the 1970s. In the first year of that decade, Arsenal would win the Fairs (later UEFA) Cup, beating Anderlecht of Belgium. Due to their success in the 1930s, Arsenal still carried quite a cachet abroad and so Anderlecht opted to change their kit for the leg in Brussels so that their fans could see the famous red and white of Arsenal.
The home side still won 3-1, but Arsenal – not returning the favour at Highbury – triumphed 3-0 to take the cup. However, in reaching that decider, Arsenal got past Ajax, wearing yellow at home (two years later, Arsenal’s first European Cup campaign would end against Ajax in N5, the Dutch wearing white shirts and blue shorts).
Twelve years later, against Spartak Moscow in the UEFA Cup, they again turned out in unfamiliar garb at home, this time green and navy. Given that the visitors were in all-white rather than red, perhaps the referee had a problem with the sleeves and shorts, as is the case with Basel?
Before the 1991 meeting with Benfica – the 4-2 aggregate loss prevented them from entering the first-ever group stage of what was still the European Cup – Arsenal were drawn against Austria Vienna, and wore the ‘bruised banana’ when winning 6-1 at Highbury as Alan Smith scored four.
In the successful 1993-94 Cup Winners’ Cup run, ties with Standard Liege and Paris St-Germain saw the away sides changing but against Torino, Arsenal wore yellow at Highbury while the Italians wore white in Turin.
The return to the Champions League in 1998, and the clashing of Lens’ kit with both the red and the yellow, meant a one-off navy kit as Arsenal lost 1-0, eliminating them from the competition. The following season, the teams met again, this time in the UEFA Cup, and, with Lens’ home shirt only having yellow pinstripes on red, Arsenal’s change strip was deemed acceptable.
The ‘overall clash’ led to Arsenal asking at half-time if they could change shirts, but the request was turned down. However, later in 2000, against Sparta Prague in the 2000-01 Champions League, that’s exactly what happened as Arsenal’s navy third didn’t provide enough differentiation against the Czech side’s maroon.
In the second group stage (remember that?), Arsenal wore the navy away to Spartak Moscow and Spartak changed in London, but the home sides switched when Arsenal clashed with Bayern Munich.
After that, UEFA reverted to mandating the visiting sides to change, but there was one more instance of Arsenal in an alternative kit in a competitive game at Highbury. Having been drawn away to Farnborough Town in the 2003 FA Cup, the game was switched to North London to allow Farnborough a bigger payday, but still technically the ‘away’ side, Arsenal wore blue.
Bonus track: We won’t list every example of the phenomenon happening in a friendly, but thanks to @TopPitch for reminding us of the game at home to France in 1989: