After an infamously strained relationship during Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea, the pair have rarely seen eye to eye after a series of high profile verbal jousts.
Chelsea had successfully blown apart the Premier League stranglehold that Arsenal and United had enjoyed so readily in the years previous. Clearly unsettled by the emergence of the west Londoners, Wenger appeared constantly concerned by Jose’s Chelsea activities. This escalated to the point where Mourinho branded Wenger a ‘voyeur’ and later commented in the Guardian that:
“There are some guys who, when they are at home, they have a big telescope to see what happens in other families … He’s worried about us, he’s always talking about us. It’s Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea. I don’t know if he wants my job. He loves Chelsea.”
Collapsing into an acrimonious legal spat, Wenger retorted with the following throwaway remarks:
“”When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes.”
It would appear spells away from England have gone along way to calming the tumultuous relationship between the two. Mourinho even went so far in a recent interview to imply they were now friends.
“I’m back in the Premier League, yes, but he’s still a nice guy,” Mourinho revealed.
[cat_link cat=”premiership” type=”list”]
“I respect him a lot and I will show it always. In football, things like this happen. Sometimes, even if you are friends and respect each other, sometimes you say something the other doesn’t like and you react, but at the end of the day I respect him a lot and I have the feeling that he is the same in relation to me. I wouldn’t bet for one single problem between us.”
So what can we make of these comments? More mind games from Mourinho? Or has he realised upon his return that Arsenal no longer pose the threat of previous years?
The Arsenal team of today is clearly a shadow of the one that Mourinho was exposed to upon his first stint in England. Gone are players with the class and pedigree of a Thierry Henry or Cesc Fabregas, filled instead by inadequate second-rate players such as Olivier Giroud and Per Mertersacker. Unless Wenger pulls his finger out, Arsenal will not have the squad to compete for the league next year but instead will be focusing on staving off their North London rivals as they seek to hold onto Champions League football by their fingertips. You could argue that next season both clubs will start with wholly different ambitions, and as such Arsenal pose much less of a threat to Jose as they once did.
It has often been the strategy of Mourinho to unsettle divisional rivals by creating something of feud between himself and the respective management. Guardiola and Mourinho have a long and complicated past, it is difficult to believe but they were once great friends. However, during his time in Spain, Mourinho tried to gain the advantage over the Catalan giants by provoking a reaction from the Barcelona boss. The cautiously thoughtful approach of Guardiola was turned on its head as he responded to harsh attacks from Mourinho relating to his relationship with referees. Mourinho won the mind games on this occasion, but his time in Spain was largely spent playing second fiddle to a dominant Barcelona side. However, at the age of 50, has Mourinho decided that mind games no longer work?
I doubt it. The psychological battle for Mourinho is not just about gaining advantage on the pitch, it is something that he also enjoys. It is difficult to perceive his comments regarding Wenger to have any such ulterior motive though. Would Wenger be unsettled by suggestions that he and Jose are now mates? Is this some kind of brutal attack on his pride? I personally cannot see it. Instead, as naïve as you may perceive me to be, I actually sense that there is a mellowing in the relationship between two great adversaries. Following the retirement of Ferguson, they represent the two most successful Premier League managers remaining in the top flight and with it brings a degree of mutual respect. If Mourinho does want to finally settle and carve out a dynasty, who better than to emulate someone with the longevity of Arsene Wenger? He may possibly want to make his trophy captures more consistent, but the Frenchman’s blueprint is enviable for any manager with ambitions of long-term stability.
Mourinho’s mind games will likely be saved for the pleasure of other managers and clubs next season. The decline of Arsenal since his last term in England means that they no longer require the fabled treatment of the ‘Special One’. Instead his return appears to prompt a happier relationship between the two managers as Mourinho looks to rebuild the burnt bridges of the past.
Is Mourinho dismissing Arsenal, or is he playing mind games again?
Join the debate below
[opinion-widget opid=”216761″ width=”full”]