Monday Match of The Day – Valencia v Arsenal, April 17, 2001
Given that the sides have met only seven times competitively, Valencia play a not-insignificant part in Arsenal’s European history.
In 1980, the Spanish side won on penalties when they met the Gunners in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final – there’s a kit story attached to that game, too, one we will cover at some stage – while in 2019 Arsenal overcame Los che in the semi-finals of the Europa League (wearing red socks with their away shirts and shorts for a jarring look).
Apart from the meetings in the Champions League second group phase (remember that?) in 2002-03, the clubs’ other European clashes came in 2001, in the quarter-finals of the competition.
This was Valencia’s first season with Nike and they had a simple but nice strip, even if some orange trim would have improved it (Terra Mitica is a theme park, by the way).
They had worn black change socks in their 2-1 first-leg defeat at Highbury and Arsenal had their red alternative set for the game at Estadio Mestalla, where a John Carew goal gave them victory on away goals.
Beaten finalists in 2000, they went on to beat Leeds United in the semi-finals but would lose out to Bayern Munich on penalties in the decider.
What makes the Valencia kit extra interesting, though, is the fact that it was apparently identical to an unworn Arsenal third shirt from the previous season.
By 2000-01, Arsenal had a navy third shirt – worn two and a half times – but the previous season it seems that there was a white shirt available, in the same design as that which would be given to Valencia.
It didn’t see any action in the Champions League, in which they didn’t get past the first group stage. That saw them drop into the Uefa Cup, where they met Lens in the semi-finals.
In 1998-99, Arsenal had played Lens at Wembley and had to change to a one-off navy shirt but for 1999-2000 Lens’ home kit featured a red shirt with yellow pinstripes and yellow shorts. That meant that Uefa allowed the Gunners to wear their yellow and navy change kit at Highbury, but the overall clash proved troublesome and, according to manager Arsène Wenger afterwards, they asked at half-time if they could switch to white but were prevented from doing so.
Whether it would have been used with the navy shorts and socks of the away strip or special bespoke sets is unknown but, ultimately, it’s probably for the best that Arsenal didn’t take to the field on their own pitch looking like Tottenham Hotspur.