Football is all about the competition and rivalry between both teams and individuals. It’s what makes fans sit that tiny bit more precariously on the edge of their couch. The game crackles with electricity when two ‘foes’ come up against each other on the pitch and the world of social media world explodes excitement and often outrage at the outcome of such head-on encounters.
Famous rivalries such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo gain plenty of spotlight for the simple fact that they are two of the greatest footballers to grace the sport with their talent. Fernando Torres, during his Liverpool days, had heated encounters with Nemanja Vidic twice being sent off after tussles with the Spaniard. Then you have Jose Mourinho with Alex Ferguson. Jose Mourinho with Pep Guardiola. Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini. You can pick up the common denominator here without being a genius. The man is a trouble maker, wherever he is.
The most recent to make his very lengthy list of foes, adversaries and people that he just doesn’t get along with is Arsene Wenger. It’s not a new or emerging rivalry, but rather the continuation of a decade’s worth of personal insults. In October 2014 it reached a point in which Wenger actually shoved Mourinho in the chest. He claimed he was provoked, after being asked why he had entered Chelsea’s technical area during the game. “Did Mourinho provoke me? That is how I felt. I did not enter Chelsea’s technical area.”
The clash between the two managers is the result of being the opposing bosses of the two biggest football clubs in London. The contest between them however, cannot be directly attributed to the London derby. An internet survey in December of 2003 determined that Arsenal’s primary rivals, before Chelsea, were Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. The same survey, when posed to the supporters of Chelsea, said that the rivalries considered more important to the Blues were Queen’s Park Rangers and Spurs. Nonetheless, a final survey, this time conducted in 2009, determined that Chelsea is Arsenal’s most disliked football club. Meanwhile, Chelsea supporters stated the greatest dislike for Liverpool, with Arsenal coming a close second.
You never get the feeling that Jose Mourinho is afraid of saying something that is frowned upon or could get him into trouble. At the same time however, you get the feeling that Wenger is somewhat stagnant in his old and conservative views amidst the modern game of football, considering its ever fluctuating nature. The blistering pace with which the nature of the game can be altered by a liberal thinker like Pep Guardiola seems to have caught Wenger unawares and this is apparent in the naivety with which he responded to Mourinho’s taunting. You would expect that since Wenger is one of the more senior managers he wouldn’t respond in such a way, but such is the abrasive personality of Mourinho.
There is a clichéd feel to their rivalry and this can be found in the differing styles. Mourinho has always been open about his tactics and the fact that he will do whatever is necessary to win. Playing with 3 centre backs? Two defensive midfielders? Parking the bus? Where are the keys? Wenger’s Arsenal has always had a very distinct style to their play. An identity if you will. Often judged for being too pretty and cute after concerns that they would prefer to pass the ball into the goal were expressed. A beautiful team goal totalling 50 short passes would make the Frenchman smile broadly but his love for flowing football is matched by his deep dislike for negative tactics. “I know we live in a world where we have only winners and losers, but once a sport encourages teams who refuse to take the initiative, the sport is in danger.” Yes, Jose. He is talking about you. Again. Jose can be quoted as saying “At Stamford Bridge, we have a file of quotes from Mr. Wenger about Chelsea football club in the last 12 months – it is not a file of five pages. It is a file of 120 pages.”
Arsenal’s fans also agree with Wenger. I mean, why wouldn’t they? They chanted “boring, boring, boring” at the Chelsea side that were content to sit back in front of the 60,000 strong that made it to the Emirates stadium. True to himself he came out in the way only Jose Mourinho can and casually gave it to Wenger. “You know, I think boring is 10 years without a title. That’s very boring. You support the club and you’re waiting, waiting, waiting for so many years without a Premier League title, so that’s very boring.” This cool and cutting quote can be likened to that of which he made last year around the same time when he said that Wenger is a “specialist in failure.”
Wenger’s intent of signing only quality players in the upcoming transfer window makes you wonder about two things. Why are you ever signing anything but quality players? Secondly, you would do well to seriously think the possibility of an Arsenal title challenge next season. Wenger believes he doesn’t need to bring in any squad players but rather can kick on and sign top quality players to immediately improve the already crisp first XI.
The back and forth nature of the relationship between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho is reminiscent of young children bickering over who won a school-yard football game and the only real difference is that these two wear fancier clothes and use slightly bigger words. But only slightly bigger.