Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal fire out title warning as colossal egos of Mourinho and Wenger warm up for new season

Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea

By Sam Wallace

There are not two managers in the business who avoid a handshake with more carefully calibrated timing and brimming ego than Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger.

You only had to watch them as the Arsenal players came down the steps and Wenger ducked left, avoiding the trap that Mourinho had set for him and the latter decided against breaking right and chasing his quarry.

Such a brief moment but what a story it tells of their enduring rivalry.

The game was an early-season dust-up that went Arsenal's way, an unpolished contest between players of varying degrees of match-readiness. But the friction between the two managers? That was straight out of the proverbial top drawer.

Once again, Wenger professed indifference at Mourinho's unbeaten run over him and finally having broken it at the 14th attempt.

"As long as I got it (the run) served every time in press conferences it could have an impact on the team," he said.

Mourinho looked anything but indifferent to defeat, making a great show of congratulating every Arsenal player as they came down the steps and then tossing his losers' medal into the crowd.

Mourinho said later that Wenger's team had "abandoned their philosophy" in sitting back and defending the first-half lead given to them by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Wenger conceded that his team had been determined to defend well but on the thorny question of philosophy said that his side had "abandoned nothing".

What was not in doubt was Mourinho's displeasure at losing. He switched and reorganised his formation throughout the second half, eventually settling on a three-man defence with substitutes Radamel Falcao and the lesser-spotted Victor Moses deployed in search of the equaliser.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's part was telling given that this was the man who Mourinho would have liked to sign as part of the deal that took Petr Cech to Arsenal. The England international has struggled with injuries, yet with the benefit of a solid pre-season he looked well capable of delivering on his potential.

As for Cech, he kept a clean sheet - which is exactly what Mourinho fears he will do on a regular basis at his new club.

On this occasion it was not as if the champions pushed their old comrade to the brink. Eden Hazard was off-key. Falcao barely had a sight of goal. Diego Costa did not figure at all. In the game's hectic latter stages, it was Arsenal, not Chelsea, who created more.

Mourinho was cryptic on Costa, saying that the striker had been ready to play but had changed his mind on Saturday. Wenger said that Cech's effect was such on the Chelsea players that he thought they looked as if they needed to "score the perfect goal".

What does it mean for Arsenal? They pumped three goals past the 2014 champions Manchester City in this game last year, and then started the season sluggishly. This time they took their chance in the first half and then absorbed the best that Chelsea could throw at them after the break.

A statement of intent has been sent - the Gunners now have to live up to it.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's goal in the 24th minute was the kind that Chelsea usually make a habit of not conceding. The ball was moved from left to right from Mesut Özil to Theo Walcott and on to Oxlade-Chamberlain who took it inside on his left foot where Cesar Azpilicueta's efforts to tackle or block might best be described as lacklustre.

He took his chance well, hitting a shot that accelerated sharply past Thibaut Courtois. The Englishman was excellent in the first half, getting down the right wing in the 42nd minute to cross under the Chelsea bar, where Branislav Ivanovic had to be brave.

Chelsea had their moments before the break, including a suspicious looking foul by Per Mertesacker on Cesc Fabregas. Ramires could have done better with a Loïc Rémy cross that he headed over.

Although they started the second half better than the first, Chelsea struggled to create chances. The obvious one, a clever throughball by Fabregas to Hazard, conspired to dig out from under his feet and strike wildly over the bar.

It was worse for Azpilicueta. Given a bad time of it by Oxlade-Chamberlain, he was out-sprinted by the Arsenal man in the 65th minute and dragged him back. Mourinho substituted him not long after, preferring the unlikely figure of Kurt Zouma at left-back.

Cech was required to push a free-kick from Oscar, a second-half substitute, around the post in the 69th minute. At the other end, Courtois made two fine saves from Santi Cazorla and then Kieran Gibbs.

While Mourinho could argue that his team had more attacking play, it was Arsenal who had the better chances at the end of the game.

As for the unbeaten record going, Mourinho's point was that one swallow does not a summer. "One game is one game and has no relation with others," he said. "Thirteen matches is an eternity."

Even so, he had taken the result of game No 14 harder than most.

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