The familiar exchange of barbs and verbal hand grenades between the managers and their successful preseasons heightens the intensity around Arsenal and Chelsea’s Community Shield matchup Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
The Gunners’ Arsene Wenger, entering his 20th season as manager, was once again the butt of Jose Mourinho’s stream-of-consciousness criticism, but the Frenchman parried the comments while discussing his squad’s form ahead of the Premier League campaign.
Nestling a compliment just behind his initial criticism, Mourinho pointed out how much Arsenal has spent on transfers over the last few years but also stressed the roster's increasing growth in talent.
"If you add up the amounts clubs have spent in the last three or four years, I think maybe you will find a surprise," Mourinho told reporters Monday. "If you put Mesut Ozil plus Alexis Sanchez, plus Calum Chambers, plus Mathieu Debuchy, you will find a surprise.
"It's a fantastic squad with good players, fantastic goalkeeper, they are more than ready to be title contenders."
Though he’s yet to claim a single victory in 13 matches against the Portuguese, Wenger refused to be drawn into Mourinho’s war of words in the media, and instead underscored the Gunners fiscal responsibilities.
"We spend when we think we have to spend and do not listen to what people think or say,” Wenger said. "When we don't have the money, we don't spend the money we haven't got."
Arsenal’s remained active on the transfer market this summer, but have only managed to secure keeper Petr Cech from Chelsea for £10 million, with a potential deal for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema still very much up in the air.
But the Emirates side have more than made due with most of the squad that finished third on the Premier League table last season. Arsenal own a perfect 4-0 mark during the preseason, dropping Everton 3-1 in their trip to Asia, and demolishing Lyon 6-0 for the Emirates Cup.
The Gunners became the first FA Cup winner to defeat the reigning Premier League champion in four years after dropping Manchester City in last year’s Community Shield, and seek to be the first back-to-back Shield-victor since Manchester United in 2011.
Meanwhile, Chelsea looks to repeat as Premier League champion for the first time since 2006 after largely keeping last year’s squad together and adding a little more flair to the attack. After moving on from Cech, the Blues snagged keeper Asmir Begovic from Stoke, and striker Radamel Falcao could redeem himself after a disastrous first tour with Manchester United last season.
The Colombian talisman was still recovering from a serious knee injury last term, and never quite fit in at Old Trafford, but with Diego Costa and Eden Hazard expected to do the attack’s heavy lifting, Falcao can employ his creativity and aggressive style in spots throughout the season.
And Mourinho expressed profound confidence in his current squad, which has only three players over the age of 30, and called them a team for a decade in an interview with ESPNFC. Mourinho likened the current batch to his 2004 squad at Stamford Bridge.
"That was a team for a decade. So this team will be a team for a decade."
Prediction: Arsenal over Chelsea, 2-1