Wenger’s Knock Out opportunity ahead of Mourinho’s encounter

Wenger's Knock Out opportunity ahead of Mourinho's encounter

 

Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho have spent enough time living in London to know the old maxim about waiting for buses before two arrive at once.

It is doubtful that either man uses London’s public transport network – although Wenger qualifies for free travel as a pensioner and Mourinho has parked a few buses – but the Frenchman will hope that the adage holds true when the pair renew hostilities on Saturday.

The Arsenal manager finally beat Mourinho at the 14th time of asking when his side ground out a 1-0 victory over Chelsea in the Community Shield in August. After years of goading, heckling and downright abuse from the Blues boss, it was a sweet moment for Wenger as he ended a remarkable and unwanted record against his foe.

The Portuguese has called him a “voyeur”, a “specialist in failure” and mocked Arsenal’s inability to win the Premier League title since 2004 as “very boring”.

On Saturday, the two teams meet in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge with Wenger out to overcome his side’s midweek setback in Europe and completely turn the tables on his old nemesis to kick Mourinho while he’s down.

Wenger is yet to win a league match against the Chelsea boss but has a rare chance to pile on the misery for the west London club, who have lost back-to-back games in the Premier League and sit fourth from bottom in the table.

While Wenger often expresses compassion for other managers under pressure, he is unlikely to be quite so sympathetic towards Mourinho’s current predicament. He feels that the Portuguese has crossed the line on too many occasions and shown him a lack of respect.

After the Community Shield, the Frenchman went out of his way to avoid a handshake with Mourinho, with whom he nearly came to blows with on the touchline last season during his side’s 2-0 defeat in west London.

Their rivalry is one of the most compelling subplots in English football and the feud could reach boiling point if Arsenal and Chelsea ever find themselves near the top of the table at the same time.

Aside from his grumbles about Mourinho’s lack of dignity, Wenger likes to suggest that the main differences between them lies in their football philosophies. At the heart of the animosity, though, is the fact that both are terrible losers.

Mourinho can be considered in many respects the anti-Wenger, a manager who jumps from club to club, achieving spectacular results without building for the long term. It is why he has never spent more than three years at a club – and he is struggling now at the start of his third season in his second spell at Chelsea.

But he is a winner and the man who stopped Wenger in his tracks. When Mourinho arrived at Chelsea in 2004, Arsenal had just won their third Premier League title under the Frenchman with the ‘Invincibles’ side. Since then, the Frenchman has won just three FA Cups and endured a nine-year gap without a trophy that was the basis for Mourinho’s “specialist in failure” jibe.

The Portuguese, meanwhile, has won two Champions Leagues, eight league titles in four countries and 10 other cup competitions. When a club hires Mourinho, trophies are a guarantee. He implements short-term projects with spectacular results.

Mourinho riles at Wenger’s criticism of his managerial methods and past complaints about Chelsea’s money. It was in that context that he crossed the line in 2007 with a distasteful verbal attack in which he labelled the Arsenal manager a “voyeur”.

Having also signed Petr Cech over the summer despite Mourinho’s objections, Wenger might feel that his luck has already turned.

Arsenal’s start to the season has not gone entirely to plan, either, but the Gunners are fourth in the table after five games, five points behind leaders Manchester City but already six ahead of Chelsea.

Wenger’s side go in to the game off the back of an embarrassing defeat by Dinamo Zagreb but the 65-year-old rested six players in Croatia on Wednesday night to ensure that he could play his best team against Chelsea.

It took 11 years for Wenger to record his first win over Mourinho. He would love nothing more than to beat Chelsea again and leave his bitter rival facing the awkward questions.

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