José Mourinho has said his history with Arsène Wenger and Arsenal will have no bearing on Chelsea’s latest meeting with the Gunners at Stamford Bridge on Saturday lunchtime and he will offer his hand to his rival before kick-off.
There is no love lost between the pair and they have previous in terms of flashpoints, the most recent of which came at the Community Shield last month, when they did not shake hands after Arsenal’s victory. Wenger appeared to give Mourinho a deliberately wide berth and the Chelsea manager made it clear that this was his interpretation of events, when it was put to him on Friday. “I am happy that you describe, exactly, in the correct way, what happened,” Mourinho said. “I respond for my actions and the others respond for their actions. I don’t have any critique about that.”
When managers do not shake hands, it is usually portrayed as an issue but only because it is a discernible sign of antipathy in what is a personality-fixated culture. Mourinho plans to wait for Wenger in the Stamford Bridge tunnel in order to shake his hand before the game, as he routinely does with visiting managers, although some figures at Chelsea would prefer that the gesture took place on the touchline, where it would be more visible.
Mourinho, who was unbeaten against Wenger in 13 meetings before the Community Shield, made the point that people would be more “focused on what happens on the pitch” and that the past did not matter.
“I just go in the direction of the match on Saturday,” Mourinho said. “It’s a match that I want to isolate from every possible context. It doesn’t matter our fantastic record against Arsenal; it doesn’t matter that in seven matches in the Premier League, they don’t beat Chelsea; it doesn’t matter they beat us in the Community Shield. It’s a match that we want to win.”
Mourinho talked about his faith in Eden Hazard, how the out-of-form winger remained the “best player in England” and how his team selection continued to be based on form only and not “the passport or the ID or the age”. Or, indeed, the reputation. He is expected to recall John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa to the starting XI after Wednesday’s 4-0 home win over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Champions League.
Mourinho’s overriding message, though, was that the Maccabi result had brought back the confidence to his squad, after their stuttering start to the season. After five Premier League matches Chelsea are 17th in the table with four points.
“In football, when you lose matches, you are affected,” Mourinho said. “You can say you’re not but you are. Normally, when bad things in football happen, the first thing is to find a dramatic story.
“But the reality is that, if you lose matches, you are affected – you lose confidence, you don’t want the ball. You are afraid of the ball. You fear the worst. The Maccabi victory was not what we need now to win 15 matches in a row. It was important [in order] to be a bit more relaxed, a bit more confident. To taste victory again is important.”