José Mourinho sours Arsene Wenger’s landmark day
Chelsea manager suggests Frenchman lucky to have a patient club ‘especially in the bad moments’
Arsene Wenger takes charge of Arsenal for the 1,000th time in the Barclays Premier League match against Chelsea on Saturday. Photograph: Stephen Pond/PA Wire
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger at his unveiling in September 1996. Photograph: PA Wire
The landmark occasion comes as Chelsea and Arsenal tussle for the Premier League title, along with Liverpool and Manchester City, and with Wenger chasing a first victory in 10 contests with Mourinho.
Wenger’s 500th match was a defeat to a Chelsea side managed by Mourinho, who has not been beaten in 75 Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge.
“The tribute is to say that I believe that, any one of us, we would love to have the same privilege with our clubs,” Mourinho said. The Portuguese last month described Wenger as a “specialist in failure” after the Frenchman commented that anyone ruling themselves out of the title race was doing so out of a fear of falling short. And Mourinho again spoke of Wenger’s eight-and-a-half-year trophy drought.
“I admire him and I admire Arsenal, because it’s not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support the manager, especially in the bad moments and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot,” Mourinho added.
Mourinho insisted his personal record against Wenger was incidental as matches pit team against team, not manager against manager. “It doesn’t matter,” Mourinho said. “It’s not against him. It’s Chelsea against Arsenal. I didn’t even play Arsenal with Inter Milan or with Real Madrid or with Porto, I just played with Chelsea.
“It’s Chelsea-Arsenal, Arsenal-Chelsea, it’s not me against him. Records don’t play any role. A match is a match. It’s not coach against coach, it’s team against team.”
For his part, Wenger wasn’t biting and insisted today he had no intention of getting into another war of words this time after his response to last month’s barb was that he was “embarrassed for Chelsea”.
“I would keep that (his opinion of Mourinho) for myself. Tomorrow I represent my club, I don’t represent myself, and I will behave always in respecting the values of our club, and keep my own feelings far away from that,” said Wenger, whose last trophy came in 2005.
Mourinho has continually used his press conferences to talk down Chelsea’s title chances, describing them as a “little horse” in the championship race. Wenger, though, is not about to take any notice of such gamesmanship, preferring instead to let Arsenal do all of their talking with a football as the FA Cup semi-finalists look to build on last weekend’s north London derby win at Tottenham.
“What gives the teams advantages is performances on the pitch,” Wenger said when asked if Mourinho’s pre-match statements had any real impact. “Press conferences can be for you (media) less or more boring, and I can understand you like some more than others, but the real excitement is the game on the pitch.”
Wenger continued: “You cannot say they (Chelsea) are favourites or not, but they are among the teams who are fighting to win the Premier League, nobody can deny that. What is very interesting is you have Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal (all fighting for the title) and that has not happened for years. None of these four teams can say they are not going for it, that would be stupid.”
Wenger maintains the Chelsea clash is “the game of the season for us”, with every point “vital now”.
Mourinho has got the better of Wenger in each of their previous 10 meetings, and the Portuguese coach has yet to lose a Premier League home match over two spells at Stamford Bridge.
“The result tomorrow will be linked with the performance of the day,” Wenger said. “We come out of winning 4-1 against Everton (in the FA Cup), we drew 1-1 at Bayern Munich (in the Champions League) and we won 1-0 at Tottenham. We are on a good run so let’s take the confidence out of this run to make another surprise tomorrow.”
Arsenal will hand a fitness test to midfielder Tomas Rosicky, who has an ankle problem. Wenger, though, confirmed today that Japanese midfielder Ryo Miyaichi will miss the rest of the season due to a hamstring injury.
Chelsea, who beat Galatasaray to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals in midweek, will be bidding to respond following last Saturday’s controversial loss to Aston Villa, when Mourinho, Ramires and Willian were sent off.
Mourinho will contest his Football Association improper conduct charge, while Ramires is banned for three matches and Willian one, with both missing the Arsenal game. Also absent is former Arsenal left-back Ashley Cole (knee), but Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are available after being ineligible in Europe in midweek.