The Gunners boss gave his thoughts on the long-standing feud with his Chelsea counterpart, as well as his preferred style of play and Roman Abramovich’s financial impact
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says his rivalry with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho “is real”, but insists that he does respect the Portuguese even if it is not always reciprocated.
Wenger, in a wide-ranging interview with the BBC‘s ‘World At One’, also shed light on his desire to play attractive football – and others’ aversion to it – as well as how Roman Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsea inflated the market and marginalised the Gunners.
Wenger and Mourinho have long been involved in verbal spats away from the football pitch, going back to the Portuguese’s first spell in England between 2004 and 2007, and early last season the Frenchman pushed his old rival in the chest during a match at Stamford Bridge.
But he says that he is quick to admit his guilt when he is wrong, and that he always respects his opponents.
“The rivalry is real but it has to be respectful and I believe that managers sometimes, in the heat of the game, [the] passion gets out of control,” he said.
“When I’m guilty, I’m guilty, and I regret that always but basically you have to respect each other, because if in our own job we don’t respect each other… the job is difficult enough, and I always find that a guy who doesn’t do that you lose a good opinion.”
Asked if there is respect between the two when in private, Wenger added, somewhat cryptically: “On my side always… I respect everybody, I don’t… I respect everybody’s style, everybody’s personality.”
Chelsea won the Premier League title at a canter this season but were accused of being boring – particularly by Arsenal fans – in the final weeks of the campaign.
And Wenger, when asked about his dedication to attacking, “beautiful” football, says the top clubs must do all they can to be entertaining.
“I believe that our sport has moved forward a lot on the technical side, on the physical side, on the tactical side but as well we must not forget the values that our sport carries through the generations,” he added.
“And one of them is that the vibes coming out of a team, going into the stands, they don’t lie. I always like to think that the guy who wakes up in the morning after a hard week of work, has that moment, that fraction of a second when he opens his eyes, ‘Oh, today I go to watch my team!’ and it makes him happy, he thinks ‘I can see something special today’. We’re not always in a position to guarantee that but we have to try.”
When it was put to him that a team could be “more boring” and “win more games”, the Frenchman responded: “That’s what people say when you don’t win but let’s not forget you can be boring and lose as well, I believe big clubs have a responsibility to win but to win with style.”
Chelsea were bought by Russian billionaire Abramovich in 2003, prompting years of big spending on transfers at Stamford Bridge.
And Wenger says it was impossible for his team to keep up with “an injection of huge money”: “It has put a lot of stress on the other teams. Why? Because it puts inflation on the wages so overall it was financial competition and we could not go with it.
“You had first Manchester United with more financial power but they created that power through commercial activities and the size of that club after you had Chelsea coming in with a private injection of huge money.
“After you have Man City coming in with an injection of huge money as well, then you have the clubs like Liverpool and Tottenham as well who have big financial potential so you are in the middle there and you have to survive, but the competition became much harder because of the financial resources of these clubs.”