Wenger eager for Chelsea challenge in 500th match

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The Independent Football

Wenger has more reason than most to relish the triumphs of days gone by but, as he prepares for the 500th game of his Arsenal reign at Chelsea tomorrow, he knows he must focus on the present.

Jose Mourinho's side present a formidable barrier to Wenger adding to his haul of seven trophies, including three Premiership titles, since he took charge in 1996.

But despite the summer sale of midfield talisman Patrick Vieira to Juventus, Wenger is confident his side can get the better of Mourinho's champions.

Wenger said: "We have the quality to do well at Chelsea and win the game, but the most important thing is to get the players to believe they can do it. I will do everything in my power to strengthen that belief.

"It is a massive game because we want to win the championship and when you want that you exist for these games. When you look at Chelsea you see a formidable opponent, but that is the kind of challenge I look for.

"Your strength and dominance in the league depends on how you do in these games. At the end of the season these points will be worth double.

"If you look back at the seasons when we have won the title you see that we did not lose to our main rivals.''

Wenger knows the combination of Roman Abramovich's financial muscle and Mourinho's managerial brilliance has given Chelsea a platform to establish a stranglehold on English football for the foreseeable future. But he is not yet convinced Chelsea have what it takes to emulate Manchester United's success in the 1990s.

He said: "The dominance of Chelsea is not comparable to Manchester United at the moment. United had Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and the Nevilles all coming through at the same time. That will happen every 100 years. When you added Keane, Schmeichel, Yorke and Cole to that group you had an exceptional team. It may happen with Chelsea but it's too soon to say.''

With due respect to Herbert Chapman and George Graham, Wenger will go down in the club's history books as their most successful manager. He has completely revolutionised the way Arsenal and the majority of English clubs approach the game as well as leading his side to unprecedented success on the field.

However, he refuses to dwell on those achievements to the extent that he does not have a single medal or trophy on display in his house. He said: "I don't have any medals at home and I couldn't even tell you where they are because I'm not interested in all that. They are around somewhere but I am always more interested in what happens tomorrow than in pieces of silverware.

"For me the best moment is the last minute of a match when we're winning. Success is what we prepare for so it hurts so much to lose.''

Wenger's Highbury reign began with a win at Blackburn in 1996. His longevity has made him a rarity in the "sack first, ask questions later" world of Premiership football. And with a move to the new 60,000-capacity Emirates stadium less than a season away he is intent on sticking around for a while yet.

"My dream is to win more championships and the European Cup," said Wenger, "so at the moment I can't see myself leaving Arsenal."

Wenger vs Mourinho


It's the first time I have heard a manager say, 'I don't care about the result because I have won it before four times'. So how many times have they won the Premiership? Three. So they don't need to win any more?

13 Aug 2005 - Regarding Wenger's comments about the irrelevance of the Community Shield.


Chelsea off the pitch look like they don't want to change their attitude or behaviour, but at some stage they will have to - despite all their money.

7 August 2005 - Wenger on Chelsea's attitude.


Some are treated as devils and some as angels and I don't think we are so ugly to be treated like devils and I don't think Mr Wenger and Mr David Dein are so beautiful to be treated like angels.

13 July 2005 - Questioning Dein's role at the FA and responding to his own fine for his role in the Ashley Cole 'tapping-up' scandal.