Wenger vs. Mourinho, Baker’s Dozen Failure, A Tale of Two Managers
As Arsenal prepared to face Chelsea on Sunday in the FA Community, everyone was aware (due to the usual media reminders) that Arsène Wenger has managed against the self appointed “Special/Happy One” José Mourinho on 13 (a baker’s dozen) occasions without a single victory. The record for Arsène Wenger in this duel is 6 Draws and 7 Losses, which I admit is a rather poor.
The media continued with their short term vision to put pressure on the club, its players, and fans saying this match will put down a marker for next season, this match is Arsenal’s true test, etc. etc…
Back to the Wenger/Mourinho match history, are there any other managers that are so successful, yet complete polar opposites? It made me recall the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,….”
Arsène Wenger throughout his career has tried to win (in my opinion) in what would be the most appropriate manner- player development from the youth up, spend within the club’s means, advance the club gradually and strategically (stadium expansion, global brand awareness, etc.), and attempt to play the game in a beautiful attacking manner. Basically the principles a person would follow in their own home or business.
José Mourinho has adopted the win at all costs principle- spending excessively on multiple established players annually but limited player development from the youth ranks, and often employing a more defensive strategy (some may call negative tactics). This strategy has been very successful for him, but often wears thin at the club level evidenced by his short tenure at various clubs lasting 3 years at most. It will be interesting to see what happens at the end of this season (his 3rd at Chelsea this stint).
Many media outlets mention the record but never mention some key events that occurred throughout these 12 matches. These are what I would like to call the Untold Details (if Walter/Tony approve)!
Match 1: Arsenal 2 Chelsea 2, December 12, 2004 (Ref: GRAHAM POLL)
Details: A Thierry Henry double was countered by goals from John Terry and Eidur Gudjohnson.
Untold Details: With this match, Chelsea has yet to claim a victory over an Arsène Wenger led Arsenal team in league play since his arrival in 1996 (well actually Sept 30, 1995), a wonderful record of: 7 Draws and 10 Losses
Match 2: Chelsea 0 Arsenal 0, April 20th, 2005 (Ref: S BENNETT)
Details: Another league contest, another draw.
Untold Details: A) Chelsea’s record is now 8 Draws and 10 Losses in league play since Arsène Wenger took over. To put that into perspective, in league play Chelsea had gone 9 YEARS without beating Arsenal. (Chelsea won 2 league cup matches in 1998)
04/05 Season Net Transfer spend: Chelsea: £47million; Arsenal £2million
Match 3: Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1, August 7, 2005 (Community Shield, Ref: HOWARD WEBB)
Details: A Community Shield contest, settled by a Drogba double to overcome a Fabregas goal.
Untold Details: Interesting that the media feel the results of this Community Shield clash mean something, yet did not show the same respect to the current holders of this competition last year. Chelsea-Arsenal relations were already sour due to Mourinho and their chief executive meeting with Ashley Cole in January 2005 without Arsenal’s consent.
Match 4: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1, August 21, 2005 (Ref: GRAHAM POLL)
Details: Drogba scored a fluke goal off his knee to secure the victory. A person streaking paused the game momentarily. Ljungberg subbed in the 26th minute due to colliding with an advertisement.
Untold Details: This is the 1st time Chelsea has beaten Arsenal in the league in almost 10 years! This also marked Arsène Wenger’s 500th game in charge.
Match 5: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2, December 18, 2005 (Ref: R STYLES)
Details: Arjen Robben and Joe Cole scored for the Chelsea victory. Essien receives a yellow card for elbowing Lauren in the face.
Untold Details: A RVP goal incorrectly ruled offside when he was clearly onside before Chelsea goals.
I found it rather interesting that Arsenal and Chelsea played 3 times this season before the new year.
Arsenal finished outside of the top 2 for the first time since Arsène Wenger took over.
05/06 Season Net Transfer spend: Chelsea £91 million, Arsenal £6.8 million
Match 6: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1, December 10, 2006 (Ref: ALAN WILEY)
Details: Flamini scores in the 78th minute, only for Essien to level the score 6 minutes later. This was Ashley Cole’s first time facing Arsenal since slithering away to the blue side. Lehman and Drogba each booked for their pushing/shoving match.
Untold Details: Ref Alan Wiley without any major mistakes in the multiple match summaries I read.
Match 7: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 2, February 25, 2007 (League Cup Final, Ref: Howard Webb)
Details: Walcott scored early but Drogba scored twice for the blues, Terry also got knocked out cold from an accidental Diaby kick when clearing the ball while Terry attempted a diving header.
3 red cards issued end of the match brawl (Toure, Adebayor, and John Obi Mikel). Eboué received a 3 game ban retrospectively for punching Wayne Bridge.
Untold Details: 3 out of the 4 players banned for the brawl wore red shirts. Wenger was also fined for improper conduct due to his comments about the linesman. Both clubs fined £100,000 due to the brawl.
Adebayor‘s red card was due to Howard Webb believing he had punched Bridge, when it was actually Eboué. Instead of the FA/PGMOL admitting the mistake, they maintained the 3 match ban on Adebayor due to his reaction to the wrongful dismissal.
The average age of Arsenal’s starting lineup was 21 years old.
Match 8: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1, May 6, 2007 (Ref ALAN WILEY)
Details: Chelsea’s Khalid Boulahrouz was sent off for fouling Baptista two minutes before the half. Gilberto scored from the spot. Essien’s header draws Chelsea level with 20 minutes left.
Untold Details: This result ended Chelsea’s title challenge handing Manchester United the league.
The ref A Wiley officiated both the home and away fixture.
06/07 Net Transfer Spend: Chelsea £6.8 million Profit; Arsenal: £17,000,000 Profit
This is the first and only season Mourinho has made a profit managing Chelsea.
Henry also left Arsenal for Barcelona this year.
Break Time: The duel is forced to take a 6 year hiatus so Mourinho can tour the rest of Europe, go shopping in Milan (win Champions League on the), explore new galaxies (or was it sign new “galácticos”) and practice optometry in Madrid.
Arsenal and Chelsea, however during this break, decided to continue competing with each other which were more decisive with Arsenal winning 4, losing 8, and only drawing 1. Then, the Happy One chose to return to Chelsea in 2013.
Match 9: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2, October 29, 2013 (League Cup, Ref: PHIL DOWD)
Details: Azpilicueta and Mata scored for Chelsea.
Untold Details: Both clubs fielded their reserve squads due to PL games only 2 days prior. Lord Bendtner led Arsenal’s line, while Chelsea’s reserves cost around £250m.
Match 10: Chelsea 0 Arsenal 0, December 23, 2013 (Ref: MIKE DEAN)
Details: A feisty match between the sides resulting in a boring draw.
Untold Details: The referee, Mike Dean, seemed to go missing when the services of an honest referee were needed. In particular, Chelsea escaped without 2 red cards and conceding a penalty.
- Jon Obi Mikel somehow escaped a blatant red card (in the words of the Independent) for his studs up tackle well above Arteta’s ankles.
- Missed penalty for a Willian trip on Walcott in the penalty box.
- On a throw in, Ivanovic kicks a standing Özil in the face but also escapes without even a foul called.
- Mourinho post match mentions that he has not lost to Arsenal in 10 contests (I wonder why, see points A-C). The start of the Mourinho vs Wenger talking point. (Off topic, but suddenly I’m thinking about the story of the Pied Piper [Mourinho] luring the children [journalists] away to their disappearance [of their integrity at least])
Match 11: Chelsea 6 Arsenal 0, March 22, 2014 (Ref: ANDRE MARRINER)
Details: It was a bad day all around for Arsenal on Wenger’s 1000th match.
Marriner incorrectly sent off Kieran Gibbs instead of the Ox in the 15’ minute. Penalty call was correct since the handball occurred in the box, but the red card was harsh since the ball was actually going away from goal. Goals from Eto’o, Schurrle, Hazard (pen), Oscar (x2), and Salah.
Untold Details: Another PGMOL error handicaps any opportunity for an unlikely Arsenal comeback.
This is the 2nd time in a match between Mourinho’s Chelsea and Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal that a PGMOL official has sent off the wrong Arsenal player (see Match 7 above)!
Arsenal committed 8 fouls getting 1 yellow card and 1 red card. Chelsea committed 14 fouls, but the cards went missing.
[Random thought- Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; continue trying to fool me 12-13 times, PGMOL have you no shame?]
13/14 Net Transfer Spend: Chelsea £49.3m Arsenal: £32.5m
Arsenal’s transfer spend was for the Weltmeister Mesut Özil (one of my favorite players even prior to joining Arsenal). Arsenal won the FA Cup ending the media fueled trophy drought.
Match 12: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2, October 5, 2014 (Ref: MARTIN ATKINSON)
Details: Eden Hazard scores from the spot and Costa adds another towards the end.
Notable talking point of the match when Arsène Wenger pushes José Mourinho for blocking his path to check on Alexis Sánchez who was taken out by a rash challenge by Gary Cahill which should have been red carded around the 20th minute.
Untold Details: oh Martin Atkinson, where art thou? Cahill receives a yellow instead of red, Ivanović receives nothing for elbowing Özil, Fàbregas was able to get away with a handball with Arsenal down by 1, and Welbeck should have received a red for his tackle on Cesc in the 90th minute.
I find it hard to believe that Arsenal would have lost being a man up for close to 70 minutes and receiving a penalty kick if the PGMOL official called the match appropriately.
Match 13: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0, April 26, 2015 (Ref: Michael Oliver)
Details: Rather boring match. Chelsea claims for a penalty when Ospina collided with Oscar and Oscar’s chip was cleared by Bellerin, Cesc cautioned for diving by Michael Oliver. Cazorla shot hits the arm of Cahill but as we have come to expect no penalty called.
Untold Details: Oscar attempts a dive in front of Bellerin, but ref does not react either way. Ivanovic only gets a talking to after taking out Alexis from behind in the 1st half, but gets one for the same offense in the 2nd half. Chelsea’s penalty claim would have been harsh considering Oscar appeared to be slightly offside and the foul occurred after the shot (Walter’s take can be found here).
14/15 Season Net Transfer Spend: Chelsea £5.1m Arsenal: £65.4m
This is the first time an Arsène Wenger led Arsenal team has spent more than a José Mourinho led Chelsea team. Chelsea able to capitalize on the incredible transfer fees for Luiz and Lukaku.
This season, Chelsea was able to win the league while Arsenal became the most successful club in the FA Cup while Arsène Wenger ties becoming the most successful manager of it.
The matches between Arsenal and Chelsea during the tenures of these successful managers have been intense competitive affairs contrary to the media’s José Mourinho domination adulation.
This record has been influenced by multiple factors including the competition, financial advantages, and PGMOL ref errors for both sides.
From a competition perspective
- 2 of the 7 losses occurred in League Cup matches which Arsenal use to field and evaluate youth team players.
- 1 loss occurred in the Community Shield (featured an 18 yo Cesc, 21 yo Flamini, and 20 yo Senderos in the starting lineup).
From a Financial Perspective
- Total Net Transfer Spend over the 5 seasons (matches 1-13):
- Mourinho’s Chelsea: £185.6m v £106.7m by Wenger’s Arsenal
Arsenal’s numbers were significantly impacted by last season’s spending (14/15) which only influenced 2 matches (matches 12 and 13, a loss and a draw).
- Total Net Transfer Spend prior to last season (affecting matches 1-11)
- Mourinho’s Chelsea £180.5m vs £24.3m for Wenger’s Arsenal!
That comes out to a financial advantage of £45m per season for Mourinho compared to £6m for Wenger. I wonder why the media never brought this to José Mourinho’s attention when he told the media that he never lost to Arsenal after match 10.
From a PGMOL Ref influenced Perspective:
- Arsenal goal wrongfully disallowed in match 5 before losing
- Wrong Arsenal player sent off in two different matches (7 and 11 both losses, with the match 11 sending off debatable at the minimum).
- Multiple penalty claims for both sides, Chelsea receiving only 2, Arsenal receiving only 1 (matches 10, 12, match 13 x 2)
- Chelsea consistently allowed to elbow Arsenal players (match 5)
- Multiple red card or 2nd yellow cards missed (match 10 x 2, match 12 x 3, + match 13)
- Where are all the PGMOL refs? This fixture has seen Graham Poll twice, Howard Webb twice, and Alan Wiley twice (Wiley in the same season)!
The financial shackles due to the development of the Emirates Stadium have been lifted allowing the playing field to become more level due to Arsenal’s player development and major signings which I feel will allow Arsenal to become more successful this season and the following seasons.
The Wenger-Mourinho duel will become much more even (in my opinion) over the coming seasons due to the financial barrier being lifted.
Now that the other factors have begun to normalize, it’s up to the PGMOL assigned refs to honestly officiate the matches going forward to ensure that the best team wins whether it is Arsenal or Chelsea!