March 10 2014 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Monday, December 23, 2013
Arsene Wenger insists his poor record against Jose Mourinho is irrelevant but thinks much of it came down to finances.
In nine attempts, the Arsenal boss has never managed to beat a side managed by the Portuguese and much of the focus for tonight’s London derby at home to Chelsea has centred on the two bosses.
Mourinho entered English football in 2004 and, backed by billionaire owner Roman Abramovich’s money, won back-to-back titles in his first two seasons, wrestling the crown from Arsenal’s Invincibles and ending Chelsea’s 50-year wait for the top prize in the land.
Mourinho has since left west London and returned this summer but the Gunners’ wait for a 14th English crown is now in its ninth year - a period of upheaval that, until this season, had seen the club sell off a host of top stars.
Despite the Portuguese having the upper hand, Chelsea are a very different animal to the one that the he inherited in his first spell in charge.
Their inconsistency this term, coupled with a leaky defence and stuttering striker, offers Wenger hope that his Arsenal side can prevail against the Blues boss at the 10th time of asking.
“I think it’s a more level playing field,” Wenger said, adding: “We had restricted financial resources for years, everybody knows that, it’s simple.”
Arsenal have been leading from the front for much of this season, boosted by the record £42.5million signing of Mesut Ozil in the summer, the return of Mathieu Flamini on a free and the outstanding form of Aaron Ramsey.
They were knocked off the top spot on Saturday by Liverpool who beat Cardiff City 3-1 but victory at the Emirates tonight would see them climb back to the summit. Defeat, however, would see the north Londoners drop to fourth.
Wenger hopes the spotlight remains on the pitch rather than the dugout.
He said: “I just want my players to be focused on the game and not worry about what is happening between the two managers, it’s not interesting.
“What is important is that the people who come tonight see a great game.”
But the Arsenal boss never had any doubt that Mourinho - who managed Inter Milan and Real Madrid before rekindling his Chelsea love affair this year - would return to England.
“Players are the same, they come to England [and think] ‘maybe I’ll go to Italy, maybe I’ll go to Spain, but they always come back,” Wenger said.
“Why? Because this is a football country, the only [real] football country in Europe and that’s why everybody comes back.
“There’s something special in this country about the game and when the foreign managers are here they do not always like all of it but they all like to come back.”