The Professor Vs The Special One

Saturday, May 20, 2017

         Football is always powerful when rivals face one another. They make the game intense and full of excitement. One such exciting rivalry is between two managers Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho. Wenger did not defeat his nemesis in the last 12 Premier league encounters. It looked like a 13th consecutive winless streak for Wenger against the Portuguese, as Mourinho was unbeaten in his previous 25 league games with Man United.



        The rivalry was initiated by Wenger when he took a dig at Chelsea's ‘lack of number of home grown players’ in their lineup. Given their history as London rivals the comment was just adding fuel to the fire. Chelsea's style of play was another reason for Wenger to raise an impediment over Mourinho's tactics. These incidents started a verbal war between the managers that still persists over a decade. Mourinho accused Wenger of being a voyeur and watching other people than himself. Wenger in his own mindset responded to his criticism by calling Mourinho disrespectful. Mourinho and Chelsea parted ways in 2007. He spent 2008 - 2010 in Inter Milan where he defeated Barcelona 3 - 2 on aggregate in the Champions league semi-final. His 1 - 0 loss at the Camp Nou was him quoting, "The most beautiful defeat of my life." He went on to win the Champions league for the 2nd time in his career by defeating Bayern Munich in the final.

        Mourinho took on a new challenge with the Galacticos in 2010. The verbal feud resumed when Wenger criticized Real Madrid for deliberately getting Ramos and Alonso sent off in a Champions league game against Galatasaray. Mourinho set it up so that they have a comfortable 2nd leg and avoid suspension in important games later in the tournament. Mourinho fired shots of his own and questioned about Wenger's success in champions league. On returning to the Premier league with Chelsea for the 2nd time in the 2013/14 season, Mourinho was back to face his old rival. Wenger again had his squeeze with Mourinho's decision to sell Juan Mata to Manchester United. Arsenal were yet to play United and selling Mata to their rivals just made the mountain more steeper to climb, especially when Chelsea played United a week earlier. Wenger thought it to be unfair that his (Mourinho's) team always has the best days to play and respecting other team's fairness it shouldn't be the case. The rivalry intensified when Mourinho quoted Wenger of his infamous comment, "He is a specialist in failure" . This comment enraged all the Arsenal fans including Wenger and he took the verbal war to another level. All the previous history between the two manifested into a scuffle in October 2014. An argument led to Wenger shoving Mourinho at the touchline on Stamford Bridge. Wenger later admitted that he should not have reacted in the way he did and felt provoked by Mourinho.

         Cold war aside, the stats rule in Mourinho's favor regarding who is better of the two when it comes to delivering results. Below chart clearly blows Wenger out of the water with just 2 wins in 17 appearances against Mourinho.


        And after the recent game against Manchester United where Arsenal dominated majority of the possession, Arsenal came on top after 90 minutes with a 2 - 0 victory. This was Wenger's 1st win against Mourinho in the Premier league. After 12 matches over a period of 13 years Wenger finally got the better out of Mourinho by being the last man standing.

       Then again, both are under firing managers at the moment with Mourinho's 1st year at United and  Wenger's worst season at Arsenal. Could the capitulation of Man United against Arsenal mark the shift of tides? With both the managers looking at a busy summer, next season could be decisive in terms of title challenges, performances and rivalries and will make the season worth looking forward to.

- Abhay Thekkany
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