The Premier League’s Most Incredible Streak Is On The Line This Saturday
Dating back to December of 2004, it’s been a miserly stretch of 13 games for Arsene Wenger against his old nemesis, Jose Mourinho. It’s not just the inability to defeat the former Chelsea manager that must irk Wenger, but the style with which Mourinho has gone about stymying his Arsenal sides.
Whether or not the labels are entirely accurate, this rivalry is continuously billed as a clash of paradigms: the pragmatic vs. the idealist, solidity vs. fluidity, spendthrift vs. frugality. In the clash of philosophies, the ideas Mourinho champions have always seen him through against Wenger.
In 10 previous Premier League meetings, Mourinho’s Chelsea limited Wenger’s Arsenal to just four goals — a far cry from the attacking ethos of Gunner’s football.
In the 13 overall matches, Mourinho has triumphed on seven occasions while frustrating Wenger with six draws. Even last season, when Chelsea struggled so mightily to defend their Premier League crown and Mourinho was eventually sacked, Arsenal visited Stamford Bridge with the hosts languishing in 16th place, but the Portuguese still managed to conjure a 2-0 victory over Arsenal.
Now, the two will face-off for the first time with Mourinho not managing Chelsea, but the advantage almost surely lies with the Gunners. Arsenal haven’t lost since the opening day of the season and trail league-leading Liverpool by only two points.
Manchester United sit in sixth and are at home, but they already trail Liverpool by eight points, and their last five matches in all competitions include losses to Chelsea and Fenerbahce and a draw with Burnley.
Typically, Mourinho is at his best when his back is against the wall, but he also typically creates a fortress mentality with his players firmly behind him. In the past week, we’ve seen stories of unrest concerning the likes of Matteo Darmian, Wayne Rooney, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay, Luke Shaw and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Arsenal will be without Santi Cazorla and Hector Bellerin, but Alexis Sanchez looks fit again after scoring a brace for Chile against Uruguay. With Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott in superb form, Mourinho may be tempted to play a more defensive lineup, especially with Ibrahimovic suspended for the match.
In any other game, such an approach would surely draw the ire of the Old Trafford faithful, but any result for the Red Devils against a surging Arsenal - extending Mourinho’s unbeaten run to 14 matches against Wenger - would almost certainly be appreciated by the Manchester faithful.