Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has no interest in reopening a war of words with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho ahead of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge.
The rival coaches squared up in the dugout last season during the Blues’ 2-0 win and then following Arsenal’s victory in the 2015 FA Community Shield at Wembley there was no handshake between the pair.
However, despite the intense media focus on the pair’s simmering rivalry, which has included Mourinho once branding the long-serving Arsenal manager a “specialist in failure”, Wenger would rather his side’s performance on the pitch make the headlines.
He said: “No special relationship (between any manager) is my worry, all I worry about is our performance tomorrow.
“I respect everybody in the job and focus on what I love and that is football. All the rest honestly does not concern me much.
“Realistically people come to watch football and all the rest is a little bit secondary. What is important is the quality of what we will see tomorrow morning at 12.45 and you want people to focus on that.”
Asked if he would shake Mourinho’s hand and if he regretted their touchline bust-up, Wenger replied: “I don’t want to talk about that. I have nothing more to say about this situation.”
Wenger was asked if he felt Chelsea were in decline. He replied: “I don’t know, I leave that to the specialists. I take care of my team and my own problems.”
Chelsea head into the match in need of a kickstart to their Premier League campaign, which has seen the champions beaten three times already and down in 17th place.
Wenger, though, says he draws no schadenfreude from the issues facing his rival manager.
“It can happen,” he said.
“Let’s not forget it is the start of the season and only five games have been played.
“For us it is a big game and we know our position at the end of the season will depend on how well we do in the big games.
“I do not think too much about where Chelsea stand in the league at the moment. I focus more on us performing well with full power tomorrow.”
While Chelsea enjoyed a 4-0 Champions League win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, Arsenal opened their European campaign with a disappointing 2-1 away defeat at Dinamo Zagreb where striker Olivier Giroud was sent off.
Wenger defended his decision to rotate the squad, with goalkeeper Petr Cech on the bench and Aaron Ramsey and Hector Bellerin not travelling to Croatia.
“In football you have to forget cheap excuses and focus on what matters on the day, which is the performance on the day. If you want to make a career at a club without any disappointment, or individual disappointment, it is not possible,” he said.
“I believe you can repair what happened. We are on a good run in the Premier League and it is important now to look at that.
“What you expect from these kinds of games is always a high intensity, full commitment and of course you want to prepare for that and play with a full focus.”
Wenger revealed midfielder Jack Wilshere was set for an operation next week to help heal a hairline fracture in his leg.
The Arsenal manager must also make a decision on whether to retain Giroud in attack, or hand England forward Walcott another chance, following what was a fourth goal in his last three appearances for club and country when coming off the bench in Zagreb.
“I try to use the best solution that gives us the most efficiency offensively,” he said.