Arsene Wenger managed just one win against former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in 15 attempts, and that came in this season’s Community Shield--- a glorified friendly, really.
But even the Arsenal coach would be lying if he didn’t admit that it just won’t be the same without Mourinho in the oppositions’ technical area when Chelsea travel to the Emirates to take on the title contenders in what promises to be an engaging game of football.
When the pair met in the league’s reverse fixture in September, Chelsea had won just once in the league and it seemed Wenger would finally get his first competitive win against the man who would later dub him a ‘specialist in failure’. Chelsea won 2-0 on the day before getting back into the rut and slipping down the league table. That loss though, seemed to have spurred Arsenal on. They find themselves with a chance to go back to the summit on Sunday with their opponents on Sunday languishing in 14th spot, just four points off the relegation zone with interim coach Guus Hiddink given the unenviable task of getting the club back on track.
In a rare moment of compassion between the two, Wenger backed Mourinho when the latter was sacked in December. It was the kind of moment that makes football so worthwhile off the pitch as well. Here was one manager backing one who he had failed to get the better of in almost 20 years as Arsenal manager.
The last meeting between the pair at the Emirates saw Mourinho’s side ignore the home fans’ chants of “Boring, boring Chelsea!” to grind out a 0-0 draw that kept them on course for last season’s title.
Nine months later, and it’s Arsenal who are favourites and they have been given a further boost by the news that the brains of their attack Mesut Ozil and their adrenaline gland Alexis Sanchez could both return from injury.
With the Blues on a seven-game unbeaten run, it may still not be easy for Wenger to get the better of Chelsea but the tide has definitely turned in Arsenal’s favour with Wenger finally getting the kind of squad depth he wanted when his key players were missing.
“Even if Chelsea are not in the best position, look at their squad,” were the words of Wenger ahead of the game, but even he knows that, for the first time in a long time, his side is the one to back against Chelsea when it comes to fitness, pace, creativity and more importantly, form.
Chelsea too have been given a boost with the news that forward Diego Costa is fit to start on Sunday. He may not be firing on all cylinders but if we can’t see Wenger pulling on Mourinho’s tie during a heated exchange, a hot-headed Brazilian-born Spaniard will do just fine.