LONDON -- Jose Mourinho declined the chance to offer Arsene Wenger anything more than a back-handed compliment amid all the appreciation ahead of his 1,000th game as Arsenal manager, or to withdraw his previous comment that the French coach is a “specialist in failure”.
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Although Mourinho did say he admires Wenger, he immediately added that he also admired Arsenal for supporting the manager for so long, “especially when the bad moments were quite a lot.”
Like all other managers this week, Mourinho was asked whether he had any specific message for Wenger. Instead, it felt like a message for the club that stood by him.
He said: “The tribute is to say that I believe that any one of us, we would love to have the same privilege with our clubs.”
It was then put to Mourinho whether he regretted the “specialist in failure” line from Feb. 14, but he refused.
“You have to ask him if he regrets the comments he made,” Mourinho said. “Then I'll answer you. Next question please.
“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. I admire the manager and the club.”
Mourinho said he would love to stay at a club that long, but that 500 would be an achievement given the demands of modern football.
“I would like [to replicate Wenger’s achievement], but it's very, very difficult,” he said. “It was always difficult. In modern football, it's even more difficult. If I accumulate my first three-and-a-bit-years with Chelsea and this one, I have a few. Let's see if I can reach, not 1,000, but 500 it would be fantastic.”
As regards the next game, which is Arsenal’s trip to Chelsea, Mourinho said that it does not accumulate any extra importance.
“No more significant than the last game at [Aston Villa],” Mourinho deadpanned. “Exactly the same. Maybe a bit less because of what happened last weekend.
“I don't think about them. I think about us. We want to make the maximum points we can in the season, so if we can make another three points, that's good.”
The Chelsea manager does not believe his unbeaten record against Wenger will have any bearing on the game, having never experienced defeat to the Arsenal boss in 10 games.
“It doesn't matter. It's not against him. It's Chelsea against Arsenal. I didn't play Arsenal with Inter, Madrid or Porto, just Chelsea. It's Arsenal vs. Chelsea, not me against him. Records don't play any role: a match is a match. It's not coach against coach, it's team against team.”