LONDON: Some 64 days after Arsenal closed off the 2014-15 season by winning the FA Cup Final the Gunners return to Wembley on Sunday to open the new campaign against champions Chelsea in the traditional curtain-raiser which is the Community Shield.
Hence the personal rivalry between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho is renewed from the outset and already the managers have been sniping at each other.
Mourinho used the occasion of Chelsea’s penalties victory over European champions Barcelona to tease that Wenger – a vocal critic of the Blues’ ‘financial doping’ down the years – had now been trying to buy his way into Premier League title contention.
Having reluctantly sold goalkeeper Petr Cech to Arsenal, Mourinho said: “If you add up the amounts clubs have spent in the last three or four years I think maybe you will have a surprise: look at Mesut Ozil plus Alexis Sanchez plus Calum Chambers plus Mathieu Debuchy.
“It’s a fantastic squad with good players, fantastic goalkeeper and they are more than ready to be title contenders.”
In fact Mourinho was being typically mischievous. Arsenal have spent £166m since 2012 compared with Chelsea’s £271m.
Hence Wenger retorted: “We spend when we think we have to spend and do not listen too much to what people think or say. We just try to make the right decisions. When we have the money available, we spend it. When we don’t have the money, we don’t spend money we haven’t got.
“If you make real statistics of the players we have developed here and compare them to the other clubs, you will be surprised. Sometimes, in the same week I get two different reproaches: either I don’t spend enough or I spend too much.
“I believe if you want to create success, which we want desperately, is to focus on inside and try to do as well as we can, believe in the football we want to play, play it as well as we can and let other people talk.”
Arsenal have been linked with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and Wenger, without being specific, refused to rule out further signings before the new league campaign. However but refuted speculation that defender Chambers could be loaned back to his old club Southampton.
Wenger said: “They didn’t try to get him back on loan and I will not consider it. I want to develop him as a centre-back. He will get games here.”
So will Cech who spent most of last season on the subs’ bench at Chelsea and will make his Arsenal debut against the club with which he won 15 trophies in 11 years – including the Community Shield twice.
** Arsenal’s England forward Theo Walcott and Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla have agreed four-year contract extensions