Forget Alex Ferguson and Wenger’s fabled Manchester United mind games, for no manager has been able to get under Wenger’s skin and negate his managerial prowess like Chelsea’s Special One.
Arsenal should still finish second to Jose Mourinho’s Premier League champions-elect, and win the FA Cup again next month, but this result already casts a doubt over the north London side’s ability to challenge for the title next season.
Arsenal, for what it is worth, have been the form team of 2015, and their manager and fans claim they can win the league next time by avoiding injuries at the start of the season. There is an element of strength to that argument, but not if they can’t beat Chelsea. Scoring against them would be a start.
This latest result means Wenger has failed to record a win against Mourinho in a ‘rivalry’ spanning 13 games now. His players have not scored a goal against Chelsea in the last five of those matches.
Wenger left Stamford Bridge silent and humiliated when he marked his 1,000th game with a 6-0 defeat last season and resorted to physical abuse on the sidelines when his side were going down back at Chelsea earlier this term, but nothing he does or says seems to ruffle Mourinho or his players.
Arsenal may have closed the gap this season in many ways, but their remains a psychological difference between the two teams that is vast.
Mourinho is so sure of himself against Wenger that he calls one of the sport’s most decorated and admired coaches “a specialist in failure”. That was a classless comment but one that now characterises this fixture and will continue to do so until Wenger breaks the spell.
The French coach looked ready to give the Chelsea boss a piece of his mind when he rightly called for action against David Ospina when the Arsenal keeper flattened Oscar in the first half, but he retreated to his dugout for much of the remainder of the game, even when Arsenal clearly needed a change in tactics and personnel to stand a chance of breaking their goal drought.
Speaking before the match, Wenger’s former European talent scout Damien Comolli rightly pointed out this was a much bigger match for Arsenal than Chelsea, as the outcome would have a bearing in the players going into next season. He was spot on, and although Arsenal were the better side for the majority of this match they lacked conviction in front of goal, almost as if they did not believe they could score.
Maybe Wenger is just playing the waiting game and will ultimately emulate the American tennis great Vitas Gerulaitis who ended a run of 16 consecutive defeats to fellow countryman and title challenger Jimmy Connors by saying: ‘And let that be a lesson to you. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row.’
The Arsenal supporters did not have that wit yesterday and vented their frustration by calling Chelsea and their tactics boring which must have raised a smile from their watching former manager George Graham.
He was the manager who restored Arsenal as a title- winning and trophy-challenging side with a team built on a rock solid defence. Graham and Arsenal fans old enough to remember welcomed that taunt as much as Mourinho and Chelsea must today for it is one borne of jealousy.
Chelsea were able to celebrate with songs about winning the league, which they will do in a week or so. Better boring than unsuccessful, surely?