“There are some guys, who, when they are at home, have this big telescope to see what happens in other families. He must be one of them. Being a voyeur is a sickness.”
These were the words of Jose Mourinho after Chelsea eclipsed Arsenal to win the Premier League trophy over eight years ago. Since then, although the two have developed a far more amicable demeanor towards each other, Mourinho has reignited the rivalry by saying that he has no regrets over what he said.
Ahead of the match on Monday night (Tuesday morning in India), which is set to be played in front of a packed Emirates Stadium, Mourinho candidly said, “No, I don’t regret, he was speaking about Chelsea all the time, always making jibes and criticism, and the money and this and that… it was too much.”
Wenger has since changed his approach significantly; talking about the opposition only when provoked, and instead, choosing to focus more on the strengths of his own team.
In fact, during a busy transfer window, which saw teams around him spending by the bucket loads, when questioned about Arsenal’s lack of transfer business, Arsene spoke about the detrimental effect it may have on a team to add too many new faces in one window.
“It’s always difficult when you bring so many players in to predict how well they’ll do. You have to find a way to integrate,” Wenger said earlier in the season with respect to Tottenham, who had added six new faces to their first team.
So far, you’d have to say that he got that one spot on.
The result of the game between Arsenal and Chelsea is unlikely to be decisive in terms of the title race, since even though a win for Chelsea would push Arsenal down to fourth place, they’d only find themselves a point behind the league leaders.
However, following a barren run in the last three games, which has seen Arsenal pick up only one point out of a possible nine, a win in front of their home supporters could be pivotal in restoring the team’s belief.
Mesut Ozil made all the headlines after a transfer deadline day coup by Arsene Wenger saw the German make his way to North London in an attempt to enable the supporters and players alike to dream again.
While Ozil started brightly for the Gunners, there is a bit of truth in Michael Owen’s assessment of him fading away for large parts of the game.
Instead, it has been the ever-abused Welshman, Aaron Ramsey (who spent enough time on the medical table to give Abou Diaby fresh hope of finding a new best friend ever since Tomas Rosicky’s departure), who has really been at the heart of all good things that the club has done this season.
With the return to fitness of Theo Walcott, who grabbed a brace in the 6-3 thrashing delivered by Manchester City last week, as well as Lukas Podolski, Arsenal just might’ve done enough to make sure that Niklas Bendtner doesn’t get onto the pitch.
The absence of Koscielny, who has been ruled out following a cut on his knee, means that Thomas Vermaelen will partner Per Mertesacker at the heart of the Arsenal defense. Given the exceptional partnership that was developing between Per and Koscielny, which had seen Arsenal maintain the best defensive record in the league before the game at the Etihad Stadium, Vermaelen’s lack of first team action may prove to be an area that Chelsea look to exploit.
The biggest difference would be the pace that Koscielny had to offer, as it was often required when Mertesacker was caught out of position.
Wenger will see this match as crucial, if not decisive, in laying down his team’s title credentials and showing that his men can compete with the best in the league.
It won’t be easy, though, as Arsene Wenger has never beaten a Chelsea team under Jose Mourinho in nine attempts.
It’s worth noting that the team at Mourinho’s disposal is markedly different from the one he had during his first stint at the club, when he had a rock-solid centre back pairing as well as the likes of Michael Essien, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, who were all at their peak at that time.
The current squad revolves around the guile and craft of Eden Hazard, who marks a considerable change in the type of player that Mourinho is usually best in utilizing.
Defensively they have been poor too, as they have already conceded three times the number of goals that they did during Mourinho’s first spell, with the number of goals scored by them during the two periods of comparison remaining neck and neck.
Mourinho recently spoke about how his strikers are not scoring enough goals, but statistically, all the players put together are scoring as many as they did the first time around, so it really shouldn’t make such a big difference.
Maybe in his heart Mourinho knows that his team is defensively not as sound as they once were, and in a way, he’s trying to express that if they are going to concede a goal or two every game, they must be ready to score more than they are used to.
He was recently comical in his response regarding the number of set-piece goals that his team were conceding, saying that even the training dummies would have a good chance of scoring against them.
In terms of the bright points from the previous game-week; Fernando Torres has shown a few glimpses of returning to form, and his instinct to get into the right position, following a shot from Willian that came back off the post, would give Chelsea supporters belief that he could be in line to score a few more.
Unfortunately, with inconsistency epitomizing Torres’ Chelsea career so far, it’s fair to say that he has been very successful when it comes to giving the faithful false hope. Only a positive outing in the next few games would be enough to convince Mourinho not to look at any replacements when the January transfer window opens.
Given the nature of the two teams that will be in action, one should expect a high scoring game, and come the end of the match, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arsene Wenger leaves the pitch with a broad grin on his face.