Wenger refuses to call Mourinho 'a tactical genius'
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has laughed off the suggestion that his bitter rival Jose Mourinho is a tactical genius, ahead of his latest meeting with the Chelsea boss at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Wenger and Mourinho have endured a fractious relationship that has seen the Blues boss describe his Arsenal counterpart as ‘a specialist in failure’, while the pair were involved in a touchline scuffle when in the two sides first met at Stamford Bridge earlier this season.
The Gunners will look to trim Chelsea's lead at the top of the table to seven points this weekend, but the more interesting side-show may be the touchline duel between the two managers, with Wenger looking to secure his first win over a Mourinho team on his 13th attempt.
While the Arsenal boss is noted for responding to any question in his pre-match news briefings, he was unwilling to join in the tributes to Mourinho after so many years of animosity between the pair.
“Look, you are the judge, you watch the games, it’s not for me to assess the (tactical) geniuses,” Wenger said with a smile. “My job is to focus my team on the game and to prepare my team. Your job is to assess all the geniuses you can meet. I leave you that job.
“What is of interest for people when the game starts at 4pm is to have a great game. That is what English football needs. Arsenal vs Chelsea is a big football game. It’s not a confrontation (between managers), it a confrontation between two teams.”
Wenger also suggested former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas should be afforded a polite reception when he returned to Emirates Stadium for the first time as a Chelsea player on Sunday, even though that plea is likely to fall on deaf ears.
Arsenal turned down the chance to re-sign Fabregas when he left Barcelona last summer, but Wenger has no regrets about that decision. “I want every player to be respected and for Cesc Fabregas, when he comes to the Emirates on Sunday, to be respected because he deserves it,” stated Wenger.
“He is a great player. It is difficult for every player who has played almost every game this season to be at the top of his game every game, but he is a great player.”
Wenger also hit back at suggestions that he regrets his decision not to sign Fabregas after the Spaniard played a key role in Chelsea’s push for the title: “Look, the regret I have is that he wanted to leave here,” he added.
“This club and myself had a very positive on Cesc’s life, so it is a bit uncomfortable trying to justify myself why he is not here today.”