Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger certainly does not have any liking for Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho and he is making no pretences about it. The Gunners manager in a bid to ensure that his vocal counterpart at Stamford Bridge is demystified says he is unleashing Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerin in the encounter today.
Sadly Per Mertesacker could again miss out. Wenger rested a number of his first team players for the Gunners’ midweek trip to Croatia to face Dynamo Zagreb. But that decision came back to bite him as an under-par Arsenal were beaten 2-1 by the Prva Liga champions. Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerin did not travel for Wednesday’s game as Wenger decided to rest them ready for today’s Premier League showdown with Chelsea. And he says the pair are now ready to take on Jose Mourinho’s side. “We have no injuries. Ramsey and Bellerin, who we left behind in midweek, will be in the squad again,” he said. Per Mertesacker, however, is not expected to be fit to face Chelsea. The German defender has been missing in recent weeks after he was bedridden by a chest infection that affected him for 18 days. While he has returned to training Wenger says Mertesacker is not yet close to full fitness.
For Mourinho who is yet to taste victory in four Premier League attempts, if Arsene Wenger can break his duck against his great rival at Stamford Bridge today it is likely to be particularly sweet. Certainly never has Mourinho’s Chelsea come into a meeting with Wenger’s Arsenal in such a vulnerable position. Having lost three of their first five Premier League fixtures, a fourth could spell the end of Chelsea’s title hopes and cast further doubt over their coach’s future.
Mourinho is a man who, as he has pointed out on numerous occasions, doesn’t do failure. The Portuguese has directed numerous insults the way of his Arsenal counterpart over the years, but his most pointed was the accusation that Wenger was a “specialist in failure.” Wenger’s more than a decade without a Premier League title is unthinkable to a man who has won eight league titles in his 12 full seasons as a coach at four different clubs.
The two men could not be more different, which explains why their rivalry, which famously became physical last season, has been so heated. While Wenger is beholden to his principals on how the game should be played and puts a focus on developing players, Mourinho is all about winning. And when he doesn’t win, history suggests he does not stick around very long.
Indeed, it is the fact that Chelsea’s woeful start to the season so neatly fits his pattern as a manger that means it is not so easy to write off as a mere blip. This is only the third time that Mourinho has made it to three consecutive seasons at a club. And at both Chelsea, first time around, and at Real Madrid, he failed to deliver a major trophy in his third year and was gone soon after.
The consequences to Chelsea’s title hopes certainly could be fatal, with it potentially leaving them a massive 14 points behind leaders Manchester City.
Of course, a defeat for Arsenal could also have serious consequences. While their start to the season has been solid, a second defeat in their first six matches would, just like last season, already leave them with significant ground to make up if they are to end that title drought. And results in midweek have shifted the narrative surrounding the two clubs just a little.
While Chelsea got a morale-boosting 4-0 win against an admittedly limited Maccabi Tel Aviv side on Wednesday, Arsenal suffered a 2-1 upset at Dinamo Zagreb. Included in that defeat were familiar failings that have stopped Arsenal from punching their now considerable weight at home and in Europe in recent seasons. Olivier Giroud missed chances and got sent off to only add fuel to those who believe Wenger needed to add a top-class front man over the summer.
Meanwhile, Arsenal were punished for over-committing going forward and a lack of presence in the midfield as they were time and again in a famous 6-0 mauling at the hands of Chelsea 18 months ago