Jose Mourinho continued his wonderfully entertaining scorched earth approach to discussing rivals in press conferences by calling Arsene Wenger "a specialist in failure." But afterwards, he also showed a bit of remorse for an old jab at Wenger. Because the only thing better than mind games are layers of mind games.
The Chelsea manager was responding to Wenger's assertion in his own press conference earlier in the day that Mourinho's attempts to downplay Chelsea's title chances this season were the result of a "fear of failure." This was enough for Mourinho to slap Wenger in the face with a reminder that he's in the midst of an eight year trophy drought with Arsenal, branding the Premier League's longest tenured manager a failure specialist.
“He is a specialist in failure. I’m not,” Mourinho said. “So if supposing he’s right and I’m afraid of failure, it’s because I don’t fail many times.
"So maybe he’s right. I’m not used to failing. But the reality is he’s a specialist because, eight years without a piece of silverware, that’s failure. If I did that in Chelsea I’d leave and not come back.”
As cold blooded as that sounds, Sam Wallace writes in the Independent that when Mourinho was questioned about comments during his newspaper briefing afterwards, he admitted Wenger's words annoyed him. And showing that it wasn't all hard feelings, he even reiterated an old apology for famously dubbing Wenger a "voyeur" for taking what Mourinho felt was too keen an interest in Chelsea's affairs during the Portuguese's first stint with the club.
He also said then that he would “not bet for one single problem” between the two of them, and the fact that the first explosion has come in February is probably an achievement of sorts. Yesterday Mourinho was also asked whether this latest attack was comparable with his infamous “voyeur” remark in 2005. He left no room for misunderstanding on that score. “I’m sorry for that [comment],” he said. “So sorry for that.”
Of course, just before that, Mourinho did say, "I am annoyed because he loves to look at this football club. I thought between 2007 and 2013 it was enough time for him to forget it. It looks like he always likes to look at this club." So it seems the sentiment is still there even though he's still sorry he called Wenger a voyeur.
After Mourinho hurt Wenger with his comment eight years ago, Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-0 and went on to win their second straight Premier League title. Of course, those were very different circumstances for both clubs, but when Mourinho uses his words to distract and upset his rivals, it often works in his favor. At the very least, it makes press conferences worthwhile.
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- Arsene Wenger