It’s a case of out with the old and in with the new for Arsenal when they wrap up the 2021/22 Premier League season on Sunday afternoon at home to Everton.
Upon Thursday’s release of next season’s new home kit, it was revealed that the Gunners players will be wearing it for the very first time when the Toffees visit the Emirates Stadium in a fixture of huge importance to the hosts as they still have a slim chance of Champions League qualification.
“Our new adidas home kit will be worn on the pitch for the first time in our final game of the season on Sunday, May 22, against Everton,” a statement via the club’s official website read, with £5 from every new home shirt bought directly through the club ahead of the new season going to The Arsenal Foundation to support local community initiatives.
But whilst a new kit will be on show in north London this weekend, shirt numbers will remain the same. Of course, the big news is that Gabriel Martinelli has upgraded to the no.11 for next season, which had been vacant since the end of last season as well as Lucas Torreira not being in Mikel Arteta’s plans over the past two years.
However, the Brazilian isn’t free of the number 35 just yet. If selected against Everton he will have what is, technically, his old squad number on the back of his new Arsenal shirt as per Premier League rules that state ‘While he remains with the Club a Player will retain his shirt number throughout the Season for which it was allocated’.
So, as Martinelli started the 2021/22 season wearing number 35, he must end the season wearing number 35, which means his first official game as Arsenal’s number 11 won’t be until the 2022/23 campaign gets underway in August.
With that said, there has been an exception to the rule this season. Upon Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United last summer, league officials sanctioned a special dispensation to allow Edinson Cavani to vacate the number 7 shirt so that the Portuguese superstar could continue wearing the iconic number.
Considering it’s the final game of the season and the shirt number that Martinelli wears against the Toffees not being a pressing matter, it’s highly unlikely that the Gunners will go down the Ronaldo route and request special dispensation from the league for the Brazilian to change jerseys.
In fact, Arsenal are no strangers to announcing new squad numbers before a season has concluded. Back in the 2019/20 campaign that had a delayed finish because of the coronavirus pandemic, Bukayo Saka was handed the no.7 shirt after signing a new contract. But he finished the season wearing no.77 and the same is likely to happen with Martinelli on Sunday.