Wenger steers clear of Mourinho mind games

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will not let a war of words with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho deflect his focus ahead of Saturday's BPL clash.

Arsene Wenger

Wenger will take charge of the Gunners for his 1,000th match, looking to close up to within a point of the leaders.

Last month, Mourinho branded the 64-year-old Frenchman a "specialist in failure" in response to Wenger's own comments about the title race.

Wenger, however, does not intend to allow anything to get in the way of making sure his team produce the required performance to collect what would be a first victory over the Portuguese.

"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," said Wenger, whose last trophy came in 2005.

Mourinho has continually used his press conferences to talk down Chelsea's title chances, describing them as a "little horse" in the championship race.

Wenger, though, is not about to take any notice of such gamesmanship, preferring instead to let Arsenal do all of their talking with a football as the FA Cup semi-finalists look to build on last weekend's north London derby win at Tottenham.

"What gives the teams advantages is performances on the pitch," Wenger said when asked if Mourinho's pre-match statements had any real impact.

"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."

Wenger continued: "You cannot say they (Chelsea) are favourites or not, but they are among the teams who are fighting to win the Premier League, nobody can deny that.

"What is very interesting is you have Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal [all fighting for the title] and that has not happened for years.

"None of these four teams can say they are not going for it, that would be stupid."

Wenger maintains the Chelsea clash is "the game of the season for us", with every point "vital now".

Mourinho has got the better of Wenger in each of their previous 10 meetings, and the Portuguese coach has yet to lose a Premier League home match over two spells at Stamford Bridge.

Wenger said: "The result tomorrow will be linked with the performance of the day.

"We come out of winning 4-1 against Everton (in the FA Cup), we drew 1-1 at Bayern Munich (in the Champions League) and we won 1-0 at Tottenham.

"We are on a good run so let's take the confidence out of this run to make another surprise tomorrow."

Arsenal will hand a fitness test to midfielder Tomas Rosicky, who has an ankle problem.

Wenger, though, confirmed on Friday that Japanese midfielder Ryo Miyaichi will miss the rest of the season due to a hamstring injury.

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson praised Wenger's landmark achievement, feeling "the biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years".

Wenger certainly gave as good as he got during what was an often fiery relationship between the duo when their sides battled it out for supremacy during the turn of the Millennium, before becoming more mellow over the final seasons of Ferguson's tenure.

The Frenchman accepts that, in the intense battles of the Premier League, it can be no other way.

"If I start now any game with you I will have to win, that is our job," Wenger said.

"It is impossible. You cannot be friends.

"You can be friends at the start of competition (but not during).

"The real sport on that front is rugby. They don't kiss each other before the game when they walk in the tunnel - they go out and are ready for war. They become friends after the game."



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