I woke up early this morning to find this picture (below) on Arseblog News (and subsequently all over Facebook). Apparently it was ‘leaked’ by the non-Arsenal individual in the photo, British Olympian Linford Christie (gold in ’92, two silvers in ’88, if you must know) and questions were immediately raised if Thierry is sporting the Arsenal home kit for 2014-2015: the first year of Puma’s new big-money sponsorship deal. While we may get an answer by the time I post this article, making my ramblings look utterly foolish, for now we speculate as the likelihood is that all sides will be tight-lipped.
First, we have Bacary Sagna wearing a hoodie with a large Arsenal logo. Unlike his photo mates, Bacary isn’t risking getting in trouble with this generic wardrobe choice. Something very similar is in fact, already available. The draw strings are different, but with no Puma logo to be seen it doesn’t appear to be anything worth noting. Moving on.
Let’s jump over to Olivier Giroud. In my article regarding the Puma deal, I mentioned “[Puma has] created some classy kits… that capture both the history of the club while maintaining a very European, modern look”. There’s no doubt that this jacket, probably a training or sideline jacket, is both ‘very European’ and ‘modern’. The off-centred, side zipper is certainly a style consideration that is employed for fashion over functionality and is more commonly seen with ‘trendy’ continental Europe-influenced designs. What’s also interesting is the prominence of navy. It appears the “British RAF” look that Arsenal has been pushing over the last two years is here to stay, with navy increasingly becoming part of our “home” colour culture; “The British Core” indeed.
Now let’s get to what people want to talk about, the legendary Thierry Henry and this mystery kit. It certainly typifies one of Puma’s style cues, bearing an incredibly tight fitment (prominent with Puma’s African team kits in recent years) so the cut certainly suggests “matchday” instead of training or leisurewear. Don’t be alarmed by the way, almost all companies are moving toward the trend of ultrafitted, aerodynamic kits for players; the retail releases will be far more generous, I’m sure.
Anyway, to the question of “is this our 2014-2015 home kit” the answer is… maybe? The styling certainly rings true to a potential AFC home kit and full-sized ‘Fly Emirates’ isn’t typically on non-matchday items. The all-white sleeves would be a welcome return for Arsenal purists, though the extension of the white to the neckline might be a little bit too reminiscent of the poorly received 2008-2010 kit. There’s certainly nothing of the kit’s appearance itself that would rule it out as a possible home kit.
But, why would Thierry be advertising the kit? After all, despite his strong ties to Arsenal he is a New York Red Bulls player – who’s current season has some ways to go, with a playoff berth locked – and unless he’s planning on retiring at season’s end it seems doubtful he’d risk upsetting his employer by advertising a competitor’s kit in 2014. He IS only on contract until December 2014 however, according to TransferMarkt, so make of that what you will.
My feeling is that this leaked shot is from a promotional photoshoot for Puma’s 2014-2015 products, not necessarily specific to the club. Arsenal will be a major feature in Puma’s advertising, considering the size of their investment in the club, and the presence of Puma’s sponsored athletes definitely suggests it’s an “official” event but Mr. Christie’s appearance doesn’t make it likely it was purely for Arsenal. These events are typically done well in advance, as the supply chain necessitates that products are designed early; after all there are resellers and distributors to showcase them to, promotional materials to be printed, advertising schedules to be locked in (TV spots, magazine ads, athlete PR days), etc. This makes it quite reasonable to suggest we’re talking about an event regarding Autumn 2014 products in September 2013.
It’s also possible that Puma brought a handful of home kit options to get feedback from the Puma/Arsenal contingent on hand regarding design, materials, etc, or maybe to even do some preliminary photoshoots. That being said, it’s hard to say if the final design is selected already – there could be several other options under consideration we’re not seeing yet. However, I’d say this could be our 2014-2015 home kit on the basis of all evidence, and certainly must be one option under serious consideration if a final choice hasn’t been made.
More importantly, the minor buzz this photo has generated should be taken as a positive sign of things to look forward to from Puma. Nike has finished their 20+ year relationship with Arsenal on a high note, finally giving Gooners a proper away kit that is selling exceptionally well (thanks in part to Mr. Özil), but I think fans are excited for the prospect of some new takes and Puma appears ready to provide that in spades. Anytime TH14 shows up around Arsenal will generate some interest, but the extent to which this picture has become ‘news’ hints to the fact that there’s palpable excitement regarding what’s to come from Puma.