Chelsea v Arsenal: Arsene Wenger refuses to rise to Jose Mourinho's mind games ahead of Stamford Bridge showdown
Wenger says he will keep his opinion of Mourinho to himself as he prepares to take charge of the Gunners for the 1,000th time
Arsene Wenger refused to rise to Jose Mourinho’s mid games ahead of the Premier League fixture between Arsenal and Chelsea on Saturday and stressed that they will have no bearing on the title race in the run-in to the end of the season.
The two rivals meet at Stamford Bridge as Wenger will be taking charge of his 1000th match for the Gunners, and the clubs are neck-and-neck in the battle for the title as they lie four points apart with the Blues holding a game in hand.
Mourinho has continuously reiterated that his side should not be considered title favourites despite holding a clear advantage, with recent press conferences seeing him attempt to deflect pressure onto other such as Arsenal and Manchester City. However, the Evening Standard reports that Wenger stresses the title will be decided on the pitch and not in press conferences, ahead of what will be a crucial match for both sides.
Asked whether Mourinho’s antics would give Chelsea an advantage in the run-in, Wenger said: “No. What gives the teams advantages is performances on the pitch. Press conferences can be for you less or more boring, and I can understand you like some more than others but the real excitement is the game. And the game is on the pitch.
“You cannot say they 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. That makes it really interesting. None of these four teams can say they are not going for it. That would be stupid.
“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.”
To mark his milestone, Wenger was this morning presented with a gold cannon by chairman Sir Chips Keswick at the club’s London Colney training ground. Afterwards, the 64-year-old reflected on his tenure and spoke about the difficult decision to move to Emirates Stadium given the financial implications it entailed.
The stadium was formally opened for Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial on July 22 2006 with the club having first explored the possibility in 1997. Only now, with the club successfully renegotiating major sponsorship deals and with the auxiliary property development scheme helping to drive down debt on the stadium, are Arsenal emerging from the financial constraints of that decision to relocate.
“I was part of the initial project to build the stadium and push the club to do it, so I felt as well that you cannot say A and not B,” he said. “I felt part of my responsibility was to push the club through that difficult period as well as I could. I knew from the start that was linked, our financial viability was linked with us being in the Champions League or not.
“You can imagine how much I did sweat for years in the last three months [of each season]. It was maybe not the most prolific period on the trophy side but maybe one day I will look back on it and that will be the period I am most proud of.
“This club has given me a chance but I think as well at an important period of the lifespan of this club, I have shown loyalty and have turned many things down, and accepted to work with restricted potential, knowing that I had to stay at the top of the game.
“I would just say I did that with full commitment. We are all only human beings, that means I certainly made mistakes but I still think the consistency of our achievement shows that we have not made too many.”
Wenger is yet to publicly commit himself to the club beyond this summer despite a new three-year contract being proposed several months ago but he did acknowledge that the next few seasons mark the last stage of his long-term vision.
“Yes it is of course. [The final phase] is by delivering trophies and winning and competing with everyone again at the same level,” he said. “You can only show that with trophies. By trophies I mean Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.
“I am an idealist but not a fool. I am at the stage of my career where I am extremely passionate, maybe more than ever, to do well for this club. But I have to accept the next thousand will be difficult.”
Tomas Rosicky faces a late fitness test with an ankle problem. Midfielder Ryo Miyaichi will miss the rest of the season due to a hamstring injury.
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