Saturday 10 December 2016

Arsene Wenger avoids making 'specialists in failure' dig at Jose Mourinho and Chelsea

Tom Sheen

Published 21/01/2016 | 17:07

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho (right) has a heated exchange with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (left) on the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge last season
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho (right) has a heated exchange with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (left) on the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge last season

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger managed to dodge the chance to hammer struggling Chelsea and former manager Jose Mourinho.

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Wenger was famously branded a "specialist in failure" back in February 2014 by longtime rival Mourinho, following a claim by Wenger that Chelsea were talking down their title chances at the time because of a "fear to fail".

Mourinho, of course, was sacked in December just months after leading Chelsea to the Premier League title; the Blues were a point above the relegation zone at the time in 16th position.

Arsenal host Chelsea on Sunday and Wenger, who has not lifted the Premier League title since 2004, was asked at his pre-match press conference whether Chelsea would be "specialists in failure" if they were relegated this season.

"I see where you want to take me but honestly I’m not ready to travel," he said, with a wry smile.

Since replacing the popular Portuguese with Guus Hiddink, back at the club for a second interim spell, Chelsea have stopped losing but they are hardly rapidly climbing the table.

The Blues are unbeaten in Hiddink's six Premier League games but they have won just two, against Sunderland and Crystal Palace, and are now 14th in the table, four points above the relegation zone but 14 away from the top four.

"I rate him [Hiddink] highly, he’s had an exceptional career," Wenger said. "He is one of the leading managers who represented the Dutch philosophy and exported it across Europe.

"Because of the quality of the players on the pitch it will be a very intense battle no matter the manager on the bench."

Wenger added: "I’m not in the best position to analyse what happens to them.

"It’s a big game. We know how important it will be to win these games.

"They are not in this title race but they are direct rivals because of the quality of their team. Nobody could predict [their season].

"They will be back."

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