Jose Mourinho has played down the significance of Sunday's clash with Arsenal in the Community Shield showpiece at Wembley but a chance to strike an early blow against old adversary Arsene Wenger will prove irresistible.
Jose Mourinho has played down the significance of Sunday’s clash with Arsenal in the Community Shield showpiece at Wembley but a chance to strike an early blow against old adversary Arsene Wenger will prove irresistible.
The traditional curtain-raiser for the new English season sees Mourinho’s Premier League champions take on FA Cup winners Arsenal and it should offer plenty of clues as to what awaits both clubs over the next nine months.
Wenger, who signed Chelsea’s stalwart goalkeeper Petr Cech in the summer, believes his squad is now as strong as the 2003-04 Invincibles who went through the season undefeated to claim Arsenal’s last Premier League title.
On paper, at least, Arsenal look well-equipped to challenge Chelsea come next May, but the sooner he ends a dismal record against Mourinho’s teams the better.
Sunday’s clash will be the 14th time Wenger and Mourinho have locked horns in opposing dugouts and Wenger is still waiting to get one over the Portuguese.
“I think I would ask myself: Why?” Mourinho, who could start with Radamel Falcao leading the line, said in the build-up when conversation turned to his domination of Wenger.
“I would try to answer, not because of a mental block but because I want to find solutions to help my team do it — try to find a different way, try to find the reasons why it goes all the time against my team.”
As barbed comments go, this one was fairly harmless from a man who once dubbed Wenger ‘a specialist in failure’.
But it did put the ball firmly in Wenger’s court, challenging the wily Frenchman to come up with a new battle plan against his managerial nemesis.
Wenger does his best to shrug off his record against Mourinho, treating questions on the subject with a wry smile.
There is no doubt though that the Frenchman is irritated by Mourinho — witness the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in last season’s Premier League encounter at Stamford Bridge.
“I will leave you with your love story with him to continue without interference,” Wenger said this week, referring to what he sees as a media love-in with the Chelsea boss.
He is far happier talking up his own team’s chances of fighting for the title.
“We have always had talented teams, but most of the time they were very young,” he said.
“We have the better balance between talent and experience now. And when you go into April you need that experience.
“The expectations are very high. You cannot win the Cup and finish third in the league and then say ‘Look, next year we want to do nothing.'”
Arsenal will be without last year’s player of the season Alexis Sanchez on Sunday, while Chelsea await fitness checks on striker Diego Costa.