ARSHAVIN – IS HE IS OR IS HE AIN’T GONNA BE A GUNNER?/UNITED COLOURS OF ARSENAL

 
The media has gone Andrei Arshavin-listic in the last 24 hours. Reports have him and his other half plotting up at the Landmark Hotel in London. Others have his club Zenit St Petersburg still trying to jack up the price.   
For what it’s worth I thought he was over-priced in the summer. That’s even truer with Sterling’s slide.  €20 million now means nigh-on £20 million with the strength of the Euro. €10 million is the highest I’d go. As the player can buy himself out of the remaining year of his contract in July under the Webster ruling, they’d be wise to take whatever is on offer I would have thought. They’d only end up with a year’s salary in that case. I’d guess around £3 million.   
I don’t doubt that Arshavin is a gifted player. I do wonder if we might have to put up with his want-away antics if he decides he doesn’t like the cut of our jib after a while. I also wonder if we shouldn’t be concentrating on reinforcements in central midfield, at centre-half and goalkeeper. Just my two bob’s worth. I wouldn’t be unhappy to see Arshavin in our ranks at £10 million or so. Perhaps the sort of deal we did for José Antonio Reyes might be the answer. £10 million down and incentive payments based on appearances, service and success, plus a percentage of the profit of any sell-on. If I were negotiating I’d want the bar set fairly high on any such add-ons however.   
Not a lot else in the “news” today (I use that term in the loosest sense at this time of year with the transfer window open).  Emmanuel Eboué has been quoted as saying Inter is interested in him. I’ll drive you to the airport myself mate. He had a reasonable game before going off against Plymouth Argyle. I thought the booing of him was the worst sort of dummy-spitting by that element of Gooners who indulged themselves in it. He was playing dreadfully but his performance wasn’t helped by having a large element of the crowd in his ear. I don’t doubt the right of fans to boo if they like. We all pay the absurdly high ticket prices all clubs extort from fans in this country. We’re entitled to boo if we want. I just think it’s counter-productive and childish. In Eboué’s case I wouldn’t be unhappy to see the bloke on his bike however.   
There was also a LOT of empty seats at the Argyle match. Three or so thousand at least I would have thought. This wasn’t helped by the Ticket Exchange not operating for this game. The Ticket Exchange should be operated for every game the instant it sells out, even if it’s a couple of days before the match. As sales are restricted to Silver and Red members there’s no ticket issue involved, just an email to the member with a seat allocation once their card has been activated for the game.   
I suspect a lot of the empty seats are allocations to the various supporters’ clubs who have blocks of seats allocated to them that they subsequently can’t sell on to their members. The club needs to work with supporters’ clubs to ensure unused seats can be effectively and efficiently re-cycled to fans who want them. Even at the very biggest games empty seats can be seen, especially in the Club zone. This issue needs attention.   
One of the items that found its way from Santa’s sack into my hands at Christmas was The Arsenal Miscellany. I have to confess to a grave disappointment with this book. It’s full of errors. One that I spotted immediately in the illustrated section which deals with the club’s playing strip over the years was the absence of the navy blue jersey we often wore as a change strip in the 1960s when I first started going. It was worn with white shorts and navy blue stockings. This started me thinking about the whole issue of playing strips.   
Since clubs cottoned on (no pun intended!) to the commercial possibilities of selling replica strips in the late 1970s we’ve now settled into a pattern of changing strips every two seasons. We’ve also followed the trend of having a second change strip. I remember many supporters were unhappy that they couldn’t buy the dark blue number we wore at Wembley against RC Lens in the Champions League, a change forced by the visiting club’s red and yellow jerseys. UEFA regulations then required the home club to change in the event of both playing in same or similar colours unless both clubs agreed otherwise in advance.
I also have some sympathy with the club in that it’s VERY difficult to predict what will and won’t be popular with supporters. Many complained bitterly about the white and redcurrant change strip, some saying it was “too Spurs”. They clearly didn’t know their Arsenal history. White shirts have been our change colours more often than not. I thought it was very smart personally. I hated the tyre-track yellow and blue change jersey of the early 1990s. It sold like hot-cakes I’m told. This season’s new home and first change colours were “road-tested” with focus groups. They disliked the new home strip (as do I) and liked the new yellow jersey (I’m indifferent). The new home strip has been a good seller, the new change strip not so much apparently. It’s sold poorly, hence the discount now available in the club shops.   
Those who know their Arsenal history will tell you that contrary to what a lot of Gooners say, yellow as our change strip is a relatively new innovation. We wore yellow in the 1950 FA Cup Final for the first time in our history. It then went into a slumber with white or navy blue jerseys being used until the 1968 League Cup Final against Swindon Town (NOT a day to remember for us). We’ve also worn red and blue stripes as our home strip (1895-96). The famous white sleeves weren’t introduced until 1934. Herbert Chapman thought it would help the players identify each other on the field in those murky autumn and winter pre-floodlights afternoons, although he didn’t live to see them introduced. We also played in black and white stripes at home to (I think) Blackpool in the FA Cup in the days when home teams changed in that competition.   
We also switched to navy and white hooped stockings in 1934 for the prosaic reason that the red dyes of that era didn’t “fix” well and the stockings ended up a sort of pink after a few times in the wash. With a couple of seasons exceptions (we switched back to red or red and white stockings a few times, and an all-red shirt in 1966/7) the basic formulation of red jerseys with white sleeves, white shorts and navy/ white stockings last right up to the 1969/70 season when we switched back to red stockings with a white hoop.   
There was also the famous green and navy change strip of 1982/3 of course. I confess I grew to quite like this after the initial shock.  That season’s home strip also featured navy and red hooped stockings, which we’d worn once before in 1945/6. Sponsors’ logos made their debut on playing strips in 1981/2, although at first they couldn’t be worn in games shown on television. Then they were permitted on TV but in a smaller size than the regulations allowed in other games.   
My bottom line with the playing strip is that the home jersey is red with white sleeves with white shorts. We’ve flirted with the sleeves a few times recently, this season’s version of course and the 1994-1996 home strip which was half white and half red. I don’t buy the replica strips as (to say the least) I don’t have the figure for them. Good luck to those who do like wearing the colours. I do want us to look smart and classy and some of the efforts we’ve worn over the years have DEFINTELY lacked both qualities.   
I was always an advocate of squad numbers and names on the backs of shirts long before they were introduced. Some don’t like this, saying how do you know what position a player is? My answer has always been that’s what my eyes are for. I’d bet a lot of players would love clubs to go back to cotton shirts too. Most wear a cotton undershirt these days. The modern artificial fabrics rub a player’s nipples raw apparently. Neither do I mind competition flashes on the arms or the manufacturers’ logo.   
I would like to see the sponsors’ logo on the jersey disappear. I’m a realist about this, but it is interesting that the only professional sport that allows sponsors’ logos on the playing kit in North America is “soccer”. Baseball, Canadian and American football, ice hockey and basketball don’t permit it. In football Barcelona was the last hold out against jersey sponsorship. From 2006 Barcelona jerseys have carried the UNICEF (the United Nations International Children’s’ Emergency Fund) logo. It is a “reverse” sponsorship with Barca paying a donation €1.5 million a year for five years.   
Cynics amongst the Barca socis (voting members) say that this good dead is to “soften up” the membership to the idea of commercial shirt sponsorship. Whether it is or not it’s a nice gesture. In Britain the first deal of this sort has been done by Aston Villa which this season carries the logo of Acorn Children’s’ Hospice on its jerseys, although no cash donation from the club is involved.   
I’d like to see Arsenal pave the way yet again and see what sponsorship might be available without carrying the sponsors’ logo on the jersey. It might create additional commercial opportunities that aren’t there at the moment. Who knows? I’d certainly like to see us study this.   
Memo to Arsenal and Nike. Less is more when it comes to kit design.   
That’s all for today, my fellow Gooners. Keep the faith.   
 

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