Ahead of tonight’s game against Arsenal at the Emirates, Jose Mourinho has spoken about one of his defenders, the opposing manager and long-term hopes.
Mourinho praised the recent performances of Cesar Azpilicueta. The Spaniard, who first played at left-back for Chelsea during our away win against Schalke, will start his seventh consecutive Barclays Premier League game in north London, and the Chelsea manager explained why he is selected ahead of Ashley Cole.
‘I feel at this moment he’s playing better,’ said Mourinho. ‘He’s showing me that physically he’s very strong and focused on the defensive job.
‘I don’t remember one defensive positional mistake from Azpi and when you are going to face people like Ozil coming from the right, Walcott making diagonal runs or Rosicky attacking defenders with the ball at his feet, he’s a player I feel has to play.’
A third successive victory at the Emirates would see us leapfrog the Gunners in the Premier League table, but given the start Arsenal have made, an away win tonight, as Mourinho explained, certainly wouldn’t prove fatal for the hosts.
‘They are top of the league and if they lose they will be one point behind the leaders, which I don’t think makes a big difference,’ he said. ‘After the Christmas period, three or four matches, we can have a feeling because some gaps will open and some will close. They feel they are a strong contender and I respect them as that.’
Since returning to Stamford Bridge this year, Mourinho and Arsenal manager Wenger have enjoyed a more cordial relationship than it was at times during his first spell in London, and Mourinho believes his counterpart deserves great credit for the job he’s done.
‘He’s totally focused on his team, his club and he’s not looking at us. They were football fall outs, not personal fall outs,’ he recalled.
‘I have a good relationship [with Wenger], I’m not saying we are friends because for that you need a close relationship and to develop it, but I have lots of respect for him and there is no problem at all.
‘He was very loyal to the club, he could have left to go to other teams and he always decided to stay, so when a manager is loyal to the club there is an extra reason for the club to be loyal to him, so they deserve each other.’
Mourinho also spoke about his reasons for returning to SW6 over the summer, and outlined his hopes looking further forward.
‘I’ve had teams where I needed to be successful immediately,’ he said. ‘I had Real Madrid, and I left there because I wanted to, not because the club wanted me to. There were clubs in other countries where it would have been easy for me to go to and find an easy job.
‘I’m here because I love this club and I love the pressure. It’s a different project for me and that’s why I’m here. I also love this country in terms of football, no doubt about that, but the main reason was the club explained what they want from me and I was open to that.
‘Realistically I have a four-year contract and I hope at the end of the four years we sit down, analyse the situation and we are both happy for me either to carry on or happy to separate. My desire and my feeling is to work for these four years and after that analyse the situation.’