Mourinho starting to make Wenger nervous

Posted by Phil Lythell

Premier League - Pellegrini, Mourinho, Wenger GettyImagesManchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal are the favourites for the Premier League title so the barbs have come out.

It is always a sure sign that the title race is hotting up when the barbs start to be traded between rival managers. A relatively civil and tranquil landscape in the Premier League has now heard its first rumblings of enmity with the transfer of Juan Mata to Manchester United prompting a renewal of hostilities between Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger.

The season started with the Chelsea boss at pains to stress the new-found cordiality in relations with his counterpart at Arsenal; the Frenchman praised for his intelligence and for the team he has constructed over the past eight years. There was little in the way of reciprocation from Wenger, though the lack of response was in itself a way of declaring a ceasefire with his old foe. That peace, however, has now been all but shattered.

In keeping with tradition, Arsene Wenger decided to have his say on a matter that does not concern either him personally, or his club as a whole, when he questioned the sporting integrity of Mata’s move to Old Trafford. His backers might point to the fact that he was simply asked for his point of view in a press conference but that he responded with chapter and verse on the subject suggests that it was hardly an ambush that he would have preferred to have avoided.

That he doubted the “fairness” of the transfer of a player from one team to another is quite bizarre. The transfer window is a mechanism designed exactly for that purpose so to suddenly cast aspersions reeks of pettiness. Obviously it is not common for someone of the calibre of Mata to switch to a rival club, though Wenger’s airing of his own conspiracy theory hints at paranoia; to claim it was a Machiavellian manoeuvre on the part of Mourinho to allow his former player to inflict damage on Chelsea’s title rivals while featuring for a team that the Blues have already played twice this season is clutching at straws.

There is the possibility that some advantage could be gained in the short term, though there is no guarantee that that is going to be the case and it would be huge gamble to make purely on that basis considering Mata is likely to be a United player for years to come.

When his comments are looked at further, Wenger’s assertions are the height of hypocrisy. What exactly is the difference between this latest transfer and the sale by Arsenal of Samir Nasri to Manchester City? Or Gael Clichy to Manchester City? Or Emmanuel Adebayor to Manchester City? Or Robin van Persie to Manchester United?

On three of those occasions the player in question was approaching the last year of their contract, which does a force a club’s hand to some degree, though a sale does not have to be inevitable. In the case of Adebayor they simply sold a key asset because the man in question wanted to leave and they received a premium fee in return. In Chelsea’s recent situation, they had an asset worth a considerable sum that was surplus to requirements. Putting emotion to one side for the moment, common sense dictates you sell that asset at its greatest value rather than wait for it to depreciate, which it surely would have done if it remained unused for the next five months.

Juan Mata was not playing in the team and wanted to leave the club especially with places in Spain’s 2014 World Cup squad up for grabs. For their part, Chelsea wanted to make the biggest return on any possible sale while doing right by a player who had been a picture of professionalism during his time at the club. It does grate that he has joined Manchester United but to question the “fairness” of the deal is pathetic, quite frankly.

Rather than castigate Chelsea, Wenger should actually be applauding them instead. After his perennial complaints about the Blues’ spendthrift approach to the transfer market, and his accusations of “financial doping”, he should be thrilled that his London rivals are striving to balance the books by selling players for a profit. To be fair to the Gunners boss he has since grudgingly pointed to the fact that Chelsea’s recent transfer activity hints that they are seeking compliance with the Financial Fair Play rules but if that is truly what he thinks then why voice any objections in the first place?

Rather than trying to appear to protect the integrity of the game and martyr himself in the process, perhaps Wenger is simply showing the strain of the title race. Perhaps he is concerned that, despite his team enjoying a renaissance at the top of the table, he still has City and Chelsea on his tail. Perhaps his nerve is starting to betray him.

That City boss Manuel Pellegrini has joined Wenger in criticising the Mata deal suggests that he might be following suit or maybe he is simply aligning himself with the Arsenal manager in an alliance based on the mutual dislike of the Portuguese. Sir Alex Ferguson and Mourinho successfully teamed up to campaign against Wenger in the middle of the last decade so it is entirely possible that Pellegrini and Wenger are attempting to turn the tables.

Or maybe, just maybe, they are simply both running scared of Jose Mourinho.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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