Premier League Playback: Can Mourinho vs. Wenger become greatest managerial rivalry?

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MOURINHO vs. WENGER, THE NEXT GREAT RIVALRY

Gone are the days of Arsene Wenger vs. Sir Alex Ferguson as the Premier League’s most intriguing managerial battle. Wenger now has a new sparring partner: Jose Mourinho.

This feud has been bubbling up since 2004 when Mourinho first managed Chelsea and last season his jibes that Wenger was a “specialist in failure” taunted Arsenal’s boss, as the Portuguese manager has never lost a game to Arsenal. In 12 games vs. Wenger, Mourinho has now won seven and drawn five following Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat of Arsenal on Sunday.

[RELATED: Watch full match replays]

All of that pent up frustration surrounding Mourinho proved too much for Wenger to handle on Sunday on the touchline at Stamford Bridge as Gary Cahill clattered into Alexis Sanchez in front of the benches in the first half.

Wenger was furious and wandered towards the Chelsea bench where Mourinho began to wave Arsenal’s manager back dismissively. Much like a schoolyard argument escalating rather quickly, Wenger shoved Mourinho with both hands in the center of his chest and Mourinho got up in the Arsenal bosses face. Physical confrontations between two PL managers does not happen often, if ever.

[VIDEO: Premier League highlights, here]

Cue both benches piling in to break things up, as the referee and fourth officials stepped in. That sour exchange rumbled on throughout the match as both managers threw verbal abuse at one another on various occasions. That atmosphere carried over to the pitch too. After Cahill’s tackle on Sanchez, Danny Welbeck could have seen red for a late challenge on Cesc Fabregas, while Calum Chambers probably should have seen red too. Wenger, and his players, were distracted and antagonized by Mourinho’s men.

Asked after the game if he would apologize to Mourinho for pushing him, this is what Wenger had to say:

“What is there to regret?” Wenger asked. “I wanted to go from A to B, and somebody confronted me before B without any sign of welcome. B was Sánchez , to see how badly he was injured.” When asked about Mourinho’s comments about the shove, Wenger continued his stance. “Honestly, I don’t listen to what he says. Push him? You would know if I really tried to push [him]. Come on.”

So, here’s what Mourinho had to say about the altercation with Wenger: “It is a derby, it is Chelsea vs. Arsenal. This is not about Mourinho vs. Wenger. It is a local derby and it is important for the table and from an emotional point of view for the supporters, players and everyone. There is always an extra temperature to this game.”

[RELATED: Latest Premier League standings]

Is this really not about Mourinho vs. Wenger? Of course it is, to a very large degree these days. Just like the heated touchline arguments, the pizza throwing debacle and the press conference spats Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson got in for nearly two decades, Mourinho is the new Fergie and this rivalry could easily boil up over the next 15 years as the duo aim for long-terms stays at their respective London clubs as both aim to challenge for the title. The big question is, does this managerial rivalry have the potential to rival, and perhaps better, some of the best in PL history? Below are four others which have stood out over the years, with Ferguson (shock horror) heavily involved.

Some top managerial duels in PL history

Keegan vs. Ferguson – During the 1995/96 season, Kevin Keegan delivered the famous “I’d love it” speech after Fergie’s accusations. Manchester United went onto win the title with a stunning comeback as Newcastle crumbled but the feud lasted for a few seasons.

Wenger vs. Ferguson – This is the managerial battle all will be measured by. During the 90’s and early 2000’s, Arsenal and United tossed the PL title back and forth. The bitter rivalry between Wenger and Ferguson will be talked about for decades to come. It’s the stuff legends are made of.

Benitez vs. Mourinho – Liverpool and Chelsea battled it out domestically and in the UEFA Champions League with ‘Rafa’ not a favorite with Moruinho or Chelsea’s fans. So much so that when Benitez managed Chelsea on an interim basis in 2013, Blues fans booed him despite a top four finish and a Europa League title. The hatred remains.

Pellegrini vs. Mourinho – Mourinho is a busy man, as he has another potential feud bubbling up as he handles Wenger. Man City boss Pellegrini became riled up with Mourinho last year over several comments and the two keep sniping back and forth. Slow burner, but could overtake Mourinho vs. Wenger.

The only danger to this intensifying touchline rivalry is that Mourinho and Chelsea could dominate and leave Arsenal and Wenger lagging behind in their shadow. You get the sense that the longer Wenger’s winless streak runs against ‘the Special One’ the more frustrated he becomes. Sunday’s shoving match could be the biggest eruption between two managerial titans of the Premier League. Or, it could be the start of something bigger.

Premier League Schedule – Week 7

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 0-2 Man City Recap and watch here
Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Hull City 2-0 Palace Recap and watch here
Leicester 2-2 Burnley Recap and watch here
Liverpool 2-1 West Brom Recap and watch here
Man United 2-1 Everton Recap and watch here
Sunderland 3-1 Stoke Recap and watch here
Swansea 2-2 Newcastle Recap and watch here
Tottenham 1-0 Saints Recap and watch here
West Ham 2-0 QPR Recap and watch here

COSTA & FABREGAS AT IT AGAIN

Four of Costa’s nine PL goals have been assisted by Cesc Fabregas this season, as Chelsea’s two big buys this summer have, hands down, strengthened their team considerably.

The deadly duo ripped Arsenal apart in the second half on Sunday with an exquisite chipped pass by Fabregas in the 78th minute setting Costa free as the Spanish international lobbed home to end Arsenal’s second half charge and seal a six win in seven for unbeaten Chelsea.

[RELATED: Premier League stats]

Fabregas has seven assists in seven games this season and is now seventh on the list of all-time assists leaders in the PL. If you look at the list below, he’s in good company. Fabregas has also created the highest number of scoring chances in the PL (20).

All-time PL assist leaders

1. Giggs 162 2.Lampard 101 3. Bergkamp 94 4. Gerrard 91 5. Rooney 87 6. Beckham 80 7. Fabregas 77

The former Arsenal man has been a revelation since returning to the PL after a three-year spell back at his hometown club Barcelona. We all remember Cesc being very, very good as a youngster at Arsenal. But has he ever been this good?

Regardless of the frosty reception he received from fans of Chelsea’s London rivals on Sunday (probably because, well, they’re jealous) here’s what a humble Cesc had to say, postgame:

“I have huge respect for Arsenal – they gave me everything when I was little. Without them I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t have won what I have won. I have huge respect and I take it in a positive way. I know they love me and it is all because we were together once. Sometimes, circumstances mean these things can happen. But I have always said it – I am not scared. They will always be in my heart forever. But this is football, I am in this fantastic football club now playing with great players, a great coach and great fans and I want to win everything.”

Chelsea tied up deals to sign Costa and Fabregas at the start of the summer and whispers about the duo being “bargains” and “shrewd pickups” have been happening ever since. Now, those early judgement calls on the potential success of Fabregas and Costa at Chelsea seem like a massive understatement.

OTHER TAKEAWAYS FROM A BUSY DAY AT STAMFORD BRIDGE

It was an incredibly busy after in West London as the kick off was delayed due to an issue with the Arsenal fans, several other players apart from Costa and Fabregas shone, plus young Chelsea ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois suffered a head injury. Let’s clear some of it up…

On August 2 this year, the Premier League ushered in a new protocol to help deal with head injuries on and off the field after several incidents occurred last season without precise rules on how players should be treated.

[RELATED: Premier League all-access]

Thibaut Courtois was involved in an early collision during Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday and after being inspected by the club doctor, it’s unclear who gave the decision on Courtois and if he could or could not continue. Courtois was substituted and has since been cleared after being check by doctors but Mourinho further confused the issue regarding Courtois’ concussion during his postgame press conference as he said:

“On the bench I don’t communicate with the doctors. I just get [their] decisions. Can he stay? Yes. He has to leave? OK. No time to discuss, no medical qualities to discuss. They gave me their decision. For me, that’s correct. The club doctor or medical department should take control and responsibility.”

Below are the updated rules on how concussions will be dealt with in the PL, which should help to clear up any gray areas which exist:

  • Premier League Rulesmaking clear that when a serious head injury is suffered on the pitch (in matches or training) that the ruling of the doctor/medical practitioner is final.
  • The role of “Tunnel Doctors”(it is a new requirement for all Premier League matches to include a Tunnel Doctor) will include supporting the home and/or away team doctors in helping recognize the signs of concussion.
  • Making it mandatory for all Premier League medical staff to carry the Concussion Recognition Tool

Off the pitch, various reports suggested that a flare was let off by Arsenal fans approaching the away section of Stamford Bridge and police stopped others Gunners fans from heading into the stadium while the disturbance was sorted out.

The kick was pushed back to 9:20 a.m. ET, which I’m sure made you folks out on the West Coast pretty darn happy… An FA investigation will be launched into the conduct of the fans in question, as it seems as though some of the Arsenal faithful got inspiration from Champions League rivals Galatasaray after fans of the Turkish clubs put in a, erm, vibrant display at the Emirates last week… Watch here.

Finally, he may not have scored or assisted like he’s usually in the team to do, but was anyone else impressed with Oscar’s defensive effort on Sunday? The diminutive Brazilian forward got stuck in, was throwing himself about and put in a gritty display which he is not know for. Those samba skills can also help you smash into tackles, it seems. Look at the image below as Oscar clattered into 17 tackles but only won two. He may need to work on his timing but the amount of interceptions, tackles and crucial blocks he made to help break up Arsenal’s play was outstanding. A workmanlike performance from one of Chelsea’s mercurial talents proves they’re all in this together.

FALCAO ARRIVES, DE GEA WINS IT FOR UNITED

Premier League Star Performers – Week 7

Player Reason
1. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) 7 assists in 7 PL games. Magic
2. David De Gea (Man Utd) Saved PK, secured the win
3. Papiss Cisee (N’castle) 2 goals, saving Pardew
4. Steven Fletcher (S’land) 2 goals, 1 assist, pivotal
5. Adam Lallana (Liverpool) 1st goal for Reds, oozed class

Radamel Falcao wheeled away in delight, pulling at his Manchester United jersey and showing it off to the adoring home fans in jubilant scenes. Take a picture of that. Save it. And reuse copiously. You’ll have plenty of chances to do that.

Falcao’s predatory instincts kicked in with 30 minutes left at Old Trafford on Sunday at a pivotal moment in the game. The Colombian anticipated Angel Di Maria scuffing a shot from 35-yards and seemed to glide into the path of the shot, while managing to stay onside, before redirecting it past Tim Howard for his first Manchester United goal. Although Falcao grabbed the game-winning goal, the real hero for the Red Devils was David De Gea.

[RELATED: Premier League schedule]

Since he arrived as a skinny 20-year-old from Atletico Madrid in 2011, De Gea has often been criticized by United’s fans. On Sunday he bailed them out of a bad situation, becoming the first Premier League ‘keeper to save a Leighton Baines penalty kick just before half time after Luke Shaw had taken down Tony Hibbert. That was impressive but two stunning saves in the final moments of the match preserved all three points for United. First De Gea got a strong right wrist to deny Leon Osman’s blaster, then he made a flying fingertip save with his left hand in injury time as over 75,000 fans at Old Trafford rose to their feet to applaud the Spaniard.

United have only kept two clean sheets in their last 10 Premier League games but De Gea’s performances have been sublime to start the season. Just 23 years old, the Spanish national team ‘keeper is coming into his own, as his performance vs. Everton proved, and he promises to be a key man in Louis van Gaal’s rebuild. Check out the video below to see De Gea’s stunning saves plus all the other action from Week 7 in the Premier League.

REDKNAPP’s PHONECALL

“Hold the phone, we’ve just gone 1-0 down.”

During the first half of QPR’s 2-0 defeat to West Ham United on Sunday, former Hammers player and manager Harry Redknapp was sat on the bench as Rangers struggled to get going. Then Redknapp got a phone call, which we presume was from coach Glenn Hoddle in the stand. Watch the video below to see what happens next as some calls are just too important to miss…

More important than focusing on Premier League survival? Five defeats from seven has QPR rock bottom.

BAD WEEKEND FOR AMERICANS ABROAD

Tim Howard’s Everton lost 2-1 to Manchester United, Brad Guzan’s Aston Villa lost 2-0 to Manchester City and when Stoke City travelled to Sunderland neither Jozy Altidore or Geoff Cameron saw the field. Altidore remains on the outside looking in, as Sunderland strikers Steven Fletcher and Conor Wickham both got on the scoresheet. As for Cameron, he is almost back to full fitness after a week of practice under his belt for the Potters.

All in all, not a great weekend for USMNT in England. And on this topic, here’s Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad for the October friendlies vs. Ecuador (Oct. 10) and Honduras (Oct. 14) as Landon Donovan makes the roster for his farewell game in Connecticut on Friday. ProSoccerTalk will be on site to witness the end of an era, so stay logged onto all the latest U.S. national team news.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Editor and Lead Writer takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here