LONDON: The bad blood between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho bubbled to the surface after the Frenchman’s Arsenal team defeated Chelsea 1-0 in the season-opening Community Shield.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s smart first-half strike settled matters at Wembley Stadium and gave Wenger, embarking on his 20th season at the Arsenal helm, a first win over his Portuguese nemesis at the 14th attempt.
The sprightlier of the two teams, Arsenal were good value for their win and would have prevailed more comfortably had Thibaut Courtois not produced late saves to thwart first Santi Cazorla and then Kieran Gibbs.
But Mourinho protested that the “best team lost” and said that by putting “nine players in front of the box”, Arsenal had “[left]their philosophy in the dressing room”.
Wenger has grown accustomed to barbs from Mourinho, who has previously accused him of being a “voyeur”, in 2005 [for which he apologized], and, last year, a “specialist in failure”.
The pair clashed at Stamford Bridge last October and there was a further indication of their frosty relationship at Wembley when, with Mourinho congratulating Arsenal’s players as they returned to the pitch after collecting the trophy, Wenger swerved an opportunity to shake hands with the Chelsea manager, who reacted by stalking down the tunnel.
Mourinho felt that the snub had been deliberate — “you only miss me if you want to miss me” — and Wenger suggested it had been a reaction to previous incidents.
“I believe in a job where you have to respect people and respect everybody,” he told his post-match press conference.
“It’s a difficult job. I just think it’s vital — I’ve said that many times in managers’ meetings — that managers respect each other.”
While both men were keen to downplay the importance of Mourinho’s run of 13 unbeaten games against Arsenal, Wenger conceded that the media’s focus on the statistic may have created “a bit of a psychological hurdle … in the heads of my players”.
Having inflicted a one-sided 3-0 win upon then-champions Manchester City in last year’s Community Shield, only to trail in 12 points behind Chelsea in the Premier League, Wenger will know not to hold too much store by Sunday’s result.
Costa question mark
But after five wins in pre-season and with goalkeeper Petr Cech producing an assured showing against his former club, Arsenal will go into this weekend’s league opener at home to West Ham United brimming with optimism.
“Confidence-wise it’s good, it’s positive,” Wenger said.
“It allows you to focus on the next game with belief and to share with your players that you did something right.
“Apart from that, now starts the championship and we have to turn up with the needed performance and the demanded performance in every single game.”
The only stain on Arsenal’s weekend was an ankle injury sustained by Jack Wilshere on the eve of the game, but although the England midfielder has a history of ankle problems, Wenger said that his absence was likely to be “a matter of days”.
Chelsea were without Diego Costa and neither Loic Remy nor new signing Radamel Falcao gave many indications that they are ready to step into his shoes.