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While soccer teams may release a new batch of jerseys each season, the fundamentals usually remain the same. Arsenal, for example, have a home shirt that’s red with white sleeves. That’s occasionally changed — the last season in Highbury saw the Gunners wearing a deeper shade of red currant — things usually remain in the same ballpark.

On Monday, January 9, though, Arsenal will look completely different. When the North London club hits the pitch against Oxford United in the FA Cup, the players will be wearing all-white uniforms.

What’s behind the change? Some things are bigger than football.

Arsenal will swap their red and white for just white against Oxford

Arsenal midfielder Martin Odegaard during a January 2022 FA Cup match against Nottingham Forest.
Martin Odegaard wearing Arsenal’s all-white kit in January 2022. |James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

No matter the sport, there’s something special about a team’s primary jersey. What might seem like a simple piece of cloth is more than just a visual identifier. It’s a connection to the past, and consequently, significant changes aren’t made lightly.

In the case of Arsenal, the club originally wore solid dark red shirts. Over time, that shifted to a lighter shade more similar to the one worn today. During the 1933-34 campaign, revolutionary manager Herbert Chapman added white sleeves to the top, hoping they would make it easier for his players to see each other on the pitch. Since then, the home shirt has stayed largely the same.

During a 2022 FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest, however, the Gunners took the pitch in an all-white kit. That special edition uniform will make its return on January 9, when the Gunners travel to Oxford United for the third round of the 2022-23 FA Cup.

Why are Arsenal wearing all white?

While Arsenal’s two uses of all-white uniforms were roughly a year apart, they both stem from the same root cause. As laid out on the club’s official website, the change of wardrobe is due to the “No More Red” campaign, which is designed “to support the long-standing work being done by Arsenal in the Community to help keep young people safe from knife crime and youth violence.”

Beyond using the shirt to raise awareness, the campaign also strives to recognize members of the community and highlight ways North Londoners can give back. The all-white shirts have never been sold commercially. Instead, they’re awarded to those who volunteer for relevant organizations.

That’s not all, though.

In addition to the volunteer scheme, in 2023 No More Red will continue to focus on:

1. Investing in safe spaces to play football, with work planned to redevelop a community pitch in Kings Square Estate, Islington later this month

2. Awarding and recognising local young champions identified as positive influences in their communities

3. Developing social action projects, which will:

– Bring together groups of young people from the local community and connect them with inspirational talent from the creative and sports industries

– Include paid opportunities for these young people to work on creative projects that leave a positive mark on their community, such as art installations, community events and awareness campaigns

While the change of kit may seem visually jarring, it’s certainly for a worthwhile reason.

The Gunners will hope that this year’s effort will have a happier ending than last year’s

While you could argue that supporting the community is more significant than any one soccer match, Arsenal are still in the business of winning games. Through that lens, they’ll be hoping for a better performance than the last time they wore the all-white strip.

In January 2022, the Gunners traveled to Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup. Wearing the “No More Red” uniform, Mikel Arteta’s side limped through a weak performance and ultimately crashed out of the competition. As we saw through Amazon’s All or Nothing, the manager was certainly upset with his team after the defeat.

While Oxford United are theoretically an easier opponent than a team that was eventually promoted to the Premier League, last year’s experience will be a reminder not to take anything for granted. Especially in the context of the current campaign, Arsenal won’t want to let standards slip. As the cliche says, winning is a habit. You don’t want to break that just because you’re wearing a different uniform in a different competition.


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