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

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.

Challenge

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.

What they said

AUG 2005

Wenger on Chelsea's lack of flair:

"I know we live in a world where we have only winners and losers but, once a sport encourages teams who refuse to take the initiative, the sport is in danger."

OCT 2005

Wenger complains about the Blues' spending, and Mourinho responds:

"I think he is one of those people who is a voyeur. He likes to watch other people. There are some guys who, when they are at home, have a big telescope to see what happens in other families. Wenger must be one of them - it is a sickness."

NOV 2005

Wenger threatens legal action and says:

"He's out of order, disconnected with reality and disrespectful. When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes."

Mourinho hits back:

"We have a file of quotes from Mr Wenger about Chelsea in the last 12 months - it is not a file of five pages. It is a file of 120 pages."

APRIL 2007

Wenger accuses Mourinho of being a chequebook manager:

"If you would like to compare every manager, you give each one the same amount of resources and say 'you have that for five years'. After five years, you see who has done the most."

APRIL 2008

Mourinho, out of work after being sacked by Chelsea, but on the attack:

"The English like statistics a lot. Do they know that Wenger has only 50 per cent of wins in the English league?"

NOV 2010

Mourinho on Arsenal's trophy drought:

"Maybe Wenger should explain to Arsenal fans how he cannot win a single little trophy since 2005."

DEC 2013

Mourinho on the Gunners being cry-babies:

"You know, they like to cry. That's tradition. But I prefer to say, and I was telling it to the fourth official, that English people - Frank Lampard, for example - would never provoke a situation like that."

JAN 2014

Wenger complains about Mourinho selling Juan Mata to Man United:

"Chelsea have already played twice against United. They could have sold him last week. I think if you want to respect the fairness for everybody, this should not happen."

Mourinho responds, suggesting the fixture list favours Arsenal:

"Wenger complaining is normal because he always does. Normally he should be happy that Chelsea sold a player like Mata, but this is a little bit his nature. I think what is not fair is that his team always have the best days to play."

FEB 2014

Mourinho calls Wenger a "specialist in failure", and the Frenchman replies:

"I do not want to go into those silly, disrespectful remarks. I never spoke about him in my press conference and I will not start now. The only thing I know is that it is more embarrassing for Chelsea than for me. I am embarrassed for him."

Mourinho fires back:

"I don't accept that one is always 'Monsieur polite' and the other one is always the bad guy. I don't accept, I'm sorry."

 npsports@sph.com.sg

 This article was published on Aug 7 in The New Paper.


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