It is the start of a hectic and tough period of football. Arsenal host Chelsea tonight in the Capitol One Cup, as the Gunners are slated to face Liverpool, Dortmund and Manchester United over the course of the next 2 weeks.
This is the first time Chelsea, under Jose Mourinho will clash with Wenger’s Arsenal, since the Portugese returned to the helm in the summer. The pair have been involved in verbal tussles earlier, when Chelsea emerged as a dominant force in English football, just when Arsenal went into a transition phase.
It all started when Mourinho responded to Wenger’s criticism of Chelsea’s exorbitant spending in the transfer market, by branding the Frenchman a voyeur. It got worse, a year later, when a youthful Arsenal side would face star studded Chelsea in the League Cup Final. Mourinho was keen on pointing out his superiority over his arch rival, by bringing up the topic of winning the Champions League. Mourinho had won the competition with Porto in 2004, and went on to do so again in 2010 with Inter Milan, whereas Wenger lost the 2006 Champions League Final to Ronaldinho’s Barcelona.
The tension between the managers descended onto the pitch, as Arsenal failed to build on Theo Walcott’s first goal for Arsenal, by conceding two goals from Didier Drogba. At the end of the match, there was a 20 man brawl, with both managers getting involved in the scuffle, by trying to separate the players. In the post match celebrations, Mourinho was spotted showing the number 5 to the Chelsea fans, in an indication of the number of trophies he’d won at Chelsea.
Mourinho would leave the West London club in few months time, to Inter, yet continued targeting Wenger, still struggling to build a team worthy of challenging for top honors.
“I’m not the person to be in a club three or four years without winning a trophy. Maybe Wenger should explain to Arsenal supporters how he cannot win a single little trophy since 2005.”
By 2010, Jose was in Real Madrid, and in reaction to his strategy to get his players yellow carded in a group game, ahead of the important knockout stages, Wenger had this to say.
“It’s a pity to see that from a big club,” he said. “It looks, frankly, horrible.”
This would of course no pass by without a reaction.
“Instead of speaking about Real Madrid, Mr Wenger should speak about Arsenal and explain how he lost 2-0 against a team in the Champions League for the first time [FC Braga].”
All hostilities were however put aside, as the two were snapped smiling and sharing a joke at the UEFA coaching forum in 2011. And, in yesterday’s press conference, Mourinho was quoted as saying,
”We have no problems, no problems at all”.
There is certainly a history and background to this fixture, and the relationship between the two managers probably helps increase the profile of the clash. The Portugese manager criticized the FA for the scheduling of the game, less than 48 hours after Chelsea’s Premier League clash with Manchester City, which they ended up winning 2-1, thanks to a late strike from Fernando Torres.
After earlier claiming to play a youthful side, he has now changed his mind and will play his first team players, who weren’t involved in the clash with City. Chelsea would still be able to field players of the likes of Demba Ba, Wilian, Kevin de Bruyne, Michael Essien, Jon Mikel Obi etc.
Arsenal have several injury and suspension problems of their own. Mikel Arteta is suspended after picking up a direct red against Crystal Palace over the weekend. Mathieu Flamini, who went off, is out for 2 weeks, which will be a major blow. Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Podolski still remain on the sidelines. This is how I expect the sides to line up. Youngsters Gedion Zelalem, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Eisfeld are doubtful due to some knocks.
Chelsea have a flexible formation. Mourinho could start with two physical strikers up front, in Demba Ba and Samuel Etoó. Chelsea could also replace one of the strikers with young midfielder Kevin de Bruyne.
This will definitely be an exciting encounter! Enjoy the game wherever you are!
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