EPL: More than a war of words between Wenger and Mourinho

EPL: More than a war of words between Wenger and Mourinho
Chelsea's coach Jose Mourinho looks before their friendly soccer match against Vitesse Arnhem in Arnhem July 30, 2014.

For some, a new season can represent a new start. For others, it's simply a chance to pick up from where they left off.

Of all the personal rivalries in the Premier League, few are as a potent as the one shared between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

Next season, in front of the eyes of the world, they go again.

Wenger enjoyed a rare victory over his Portuguese tormentor last season. Having been described as "a specialist in failure" by Mourinho, the French boss ended a nine-year trophy drought by landing the FA Cup at Wembley.

Mourinho ended the season with nothing.

Now, battle resumes. And, this time, Mourinho is determined to win.

There is no hyperbole to this rivalry. It's not for the cameras, it's not a tool to heighten loyalty, it's absolutely genuine. Mourinho and Wenger loathe each other.

For Mourinho, the animosity is borne out of confusion.

From his first position as Benfica manager in 2000, he has always worked under immense and immediate pressure. He lost that job within three months, booted out by the new president after losing only two games in 11.

From Leiria to Porto to Chelsea to Inter-Milan to Real Madrid, his career has been a long story of instant expectations set against a backdrop of impatience and pressure. For Mourinho, a season without silver can mean the sack.

He has never been able to understand the patience and understanding that Wenger receives from both his superiors and the media.

Different conditions

Wenger has worked under very different conditions. In his first role at Nancy, he oversaw a slow, three-year deterioration that ended with relegation.

But, because of his techniques, his style of play and the reputation for good football that he was earning, allied to a recognition of his limited resources, he ended up with the Monaco job and promptly won the title in his first season.

His work there caught the eye of Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, who lured him to London in 1996 after a spell with Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan.

Again, Wenger won the title in his first full season, adding an FA Cup for good measure.

Just as it was at Nancy, Wenger's techniques won him political capital, so much that even a nine-year trophy drought wasn't enough to cost him his job.

Mourinho, being Mourinho, is unable to keep his own counsel when it comes to personal grievances, and so it didn't take long for him to start sniping at Wenger through the press.

Wenger, who up until Mourinho's arrival had considered Sir Alex Ferguson to be his arch-rival, was appalled at what he felt was a breach of an unwritten code of conduct between managers.

The situation has not improved.

This season may be their closest battle yet.

Arsenal, the payments on their enormous new stadium almost complete, are spending money like a big club again.


Chelsea, their transitional year behind them, have a new-look squad ready to step up for the challenge.

Wenger will believe, as he always does, that his squad can win the title. The addition of Alexis Sanchez will certainly help, though there is a feeling that a new, dynamic and destructive midfielder is required before serious silverware becomes an option.

There are three weeks before the transfer window closes and they should be used wisely. The pursuit of Sami Khedira continues.

Chelsea have completed their business, a rare example of forward planning for the West London side, though these things are becoming fewer since Mourinho's return.

Everything at Chelsea has been short term and disjointed since the Special One left in 2007. Now, a sense of stability has returned.

Both men will seek glory this year and both will claim that glory is their only motivation.

But you know, deep down, that they would love to get one over their ideological opposite.

With these two, the satisfaction of a personal duel won might even outweigh the satisfaction of a job well done.

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.