Wenger set to take action over Mourinho gibes

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The Independent Football

In another remarkable day between the two clubs, Wenger began by threatening legal action over the comments made by Mourinho on Monday that the Arsenal manager was a "voyeur" who had become obsessed with Chelsea. He also suggested that success had made Mourinho "stupid" and the nature of his remarks had already reached Mourinho before his team's defeat to Real Betis in the Champions' League last night.

The Chelsea manager said that he had expected a "strong reaction" from his counterpart, but said that he stood by his argument that Wenger was unnaturally obsessed with his club. "We have at Stamford Bridge a file of quotes from Mr Wenger about Chelsea football club. It is not a file of five pages, it is a file of 120 pages. My objective is: enough is enough.

"He has spoken enough about us, he has said many strong things about Chelsea. I accept that his answer will be strong, but it is time to stop or we will be in a fight."

Wenger said earlier of the Chelsea manager and his achievements: "I just think that if you give success to stupid people it makes them more stupid sometimes, not more intelligent."

Wenger, who confirmed Thierry Henry would return from a recurrence of his knee injury to start tonight's Champions' League tie against Sparta Prague, undoubtedly felt Mourinho had overstepped the mark, calling him " disrespectful and out of order.

"I will see whether I take any action about that. I don't know yet, but I leave that door open." Asked to clarify whether he was talking about suing Mourinho or just complaining to the Football Association, Wenger stated: "I said action. You take it as you want it."

Wenger, who said he had been made aware of Mourinho's comments by Arsenal's press officer, also appeared to renew his criticisms of Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich, whom he has previously accused of not providing leadership. Wenger implied that foreign control of English football clubs had led to a lowering of "values" and a less tolerant atmosphere.

"When I came to England, I was happy to come and be confronted with the culture, where the owners of the clubs were English and they opened the door to foreign people," Wenger said. "Now, in some clubs, it looks like it is becoming different and that's where it's important not to lose your values. It is important that the respect you have always shown stays."

Wenger believed that he did not deserve to be personally attacked for voicing what he considered nothing more than an honest opinion about football.

"Frankly, I'm not interested by Chelsea. I never speak about them, worry about them. But when you ask me a question, yes, I answer you."

He said that he did not "need" an apology, adding: "I just need to get on with my job and do what I want and what I want to say. And what I will say always is what I think of a game and not a person."

At the same time, Wenger said that the media were also culpable for interpreting his comment on Chelsea's recent performances as a " personal attack", saying there was "nothing malicious in what I said. I said the only hope we had was that they dropped points and lose confidence and the next morning I read in the newspapers, 'Chelsea crack up'. I never said that."

However, there was an undoubted barb in his comment that "there's a long way to go, especially if people get nervous" when asked if Chelsea were certain to retain their title.

The dispute overshadowed preparations for the visit of the struggling Czech champions. Despite Henry's return tonight Arsenal, who probably just need a draw to qualify, will be without Fredrik Ljungberg.

Arsenal (probable 4-4-2): Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Touré, Clichy; Pires, Fabregas, Gilberto, Reyes; Bergkamp, Henry.

Sparta Prague (probable 4-1-4-1): Blazek; Pergl, Petrous, Lukas, Kadlec; Petras; Pospech, Zelenka, Hasek, Polacek; Slepicka.

Referee: A Sars (France).

The words that started the row

Wenger on Mourinho

Arsène Wenger was reported to have said Chelsea had lost "big belief" following their draw with Everton and defeat to Charlton. What he actually said was: "A little bit of the belief has gone because they could not win, so there is a little hope there, yes".

Mourinho on Wenger

Jose Mourinho then said of Wenger: "I think he is one of these people who is a voyeur. He likes to watch other people. There are some guys, who, when they are at home, have this big telescope to see what happens in other families. He must be one of them."