Wenger won't let Mourinho jibes ruin 1,000th game
Arsene Wenger insists he has no intention of being drawn into a war of words with Jose Mourinho as the Arsenal manager celebrates his 1,000th match with a crucial showdown against his managerial nemesis at Chelsea on Saturday.
Wenger's milestone match has brought the 64-year-old Frenchman glowing tributes from across the football world this week.
But when Mourinho was offered the opportunity to add his voice to those singing Wenger's praises on Friday, the Chelsea boss opted instead to draw attention to Arsenal's ongoing nine-year trophy drought.
"I admire him and I admire Arsenal, because it's not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support the manager, especially in the bad moments and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot," Mourinho said.
That was just the latest chapter in a blood feud between two of Europe's finest managers which dates back to Mourinho's first spell at Chelsea when he dubbed Wenger "a voyeur" for commenting about the Blues so often.
Mourinho has shown no signs of calling a truce since his return to the Bridge and only last month he branded Wenger a "specialist in failure".
The constant sniping from Mourinho must grate on Wenger, especially since he has yet to beat his old rival in 10 attempts.
Yet Wenger has generally taken the moral high ground when asked about Mourinho this season, and on Friday he once again tried to steer clear of a slanging match which could prove a distraction to his players ahead of a vital encounter in the race for the Premier League title.
"I would keep that (his opinion of Mourinho) for myself. Tomorrow I represent my club, I don't represent myself, and I will behave always in respecting the values of our club, and keep my own feelings far away from that," Wenger said.
It is hardly surprising Mourinho has been at his acerbic best this week as Arsenal are just four points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand, making their London derby a potentially decisive moment in the Gunners' season.
But, asked if Mourinho's attempts to unsettle rival managers and teams with mind games had ever bothered him, Wenger added: "What gives the teams advantages is performances on the pitch.
"Press conferences can be for you (media) less or more boring, and I can understand you like some more than others, but the real excitement is the game on the pitch."
Chelsea's 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa last weekend opened the door for second-place Liverpool and fourth-place Manchester City.
Like Arsenal, Liverpool are four points behind Chelsea with a game in hand, while City are potentially in an even stronger position, two points further back but with three matches in hand.
- Rodgers cools run-in excitement -
Liverpool recorded a fifth consecutive victory with a fine 3-0 win at Manchester United last weekend, but manager Brendan Rodgers has warned his players not to lose focus ahead of Saturday's trip to second-bottom Cardiff City.
"The run-in for us is the next game, and Cardiff have had some good results at home," he said.
"We've got tough games right the way through. We'll speak about the run-in when it is finished at the end of the season."
After a three-week hiatus due to various cup commitments, City returned to league action with a 2-0 victory at Hull City last weekend.
They, too, face a struggling team this weekend, with rock-bottom Fulham the visitors to Eastlands.
United stormed into the Champions League quarter-finals by overturning a 2-0 deficit with a 3-0 win over Olympiakos on Wednesday, but they remain at risk of getting cut adrift in the battle for a top-four place.
David Moyes's side could be 15 points below the top four by the time they kick off at West Ham and midfielder Michael Carrick knows that they are a long way from salvaging their season.
"I hope this will give us a confidence boost, but I am not getting carried away," he said.
Saturday (1500 GMT unless otherwise stated):
Cardiff City v Liverpool, Chelsea v Arsenal (1245 GMT), Everton v Swansea City, Hull City v West Bromwich Albion, Manchester City v Fulham, Newcastle United v Crystal Palace, Norwich City v Sunderland, West Ham United v Manchester United (1730 GMT)
Aston Villa v Stoke City (1600 GMT), Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton (1330 GMT)