Arsene Wenger has sent out the type of thinly veiled challenge that might just appeal to Jose Mourinho, insisting “there is a reluctance in England to sell to each other” after admitting he would love to sign Chelsea’s Juan Mata.
The Arsenal boss watched his side book their ticket to the group stage of the Champions League with a 5-0 aggregate win over Fenerbahce on Tuesday, after which he confessed his desire to offer Mata an escape route from Stamford Bridge. John Drayton of the Daily Mail provides the quotes:
I watched the [Manchester United v Chelsea] game last night, (seeing) that Juan Mata could be on the market. I don’t know, there is reluctance in England to sell to each other.
Does that frustrate me? Yes, I like him.
Everybody knows we are in the market. The whole world knows that now. I cannot be more creative than that, because all has been said and nothing has been concluded.
Mata’s father was a guest at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night, adding to speculation that the Gunners are set to make a serious play for the Spain international.
Wenger knows Mourinho has a tendency to break the mould in his managerial style, shown by numerous incidents in the Chelsea boss’ career, when he has named team lineups long before a match, dragged players off 25 minutes into the first half—and even thrown his Premier League winner’s medal into the crowd.
So by declaring a “reluctance in England to sell to each other,” Wenger has offered Mourinho something he often finds difficult to ignore: the chance to buck the trend.
Mata is seemingly not to Mourinho’s taste. The Spaniard has been afforded 65 minutes of Premier League football so far—hardly the typical treatment for a club’s Player of the Year.
Mourinho has always liked his attacking players to boast impressive physicality, capable of keeping a full-back occupied while also tracking back defensively for 90 minutes. Perhaps he does not see that in Mata, just as he didn’t always fancy Joe Cole.
For now, the Chelsea boss is playing down all Mata talk, insisting the player won’t leave. He has also explained the reason behind the signing of £30 million man Willian, despite the fact Mata cannot even get in the team. Drayton provides the quotes:
In this moment it looks like we have a lot but when we get to September—and I am not talking October, November, December, January, I am talking about September—we have the Premier League, the Champions League, the Capital One Cup, a double national team fixture.
When this time arrives, 22 players is not a big squad and when you can add more quality it is not a problem. It’s a solution.
Wenger is determined to add talent to his squad in the remaining six days of the transfer window and has been linked to Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Mata. The Frenchman wants more creativity, and at least one of these players is earmarked with providing it.
Arsenal lost Lukas Podolski on Tuesday, who predicted to miss at least the next three weeks of the season, according to Matt McGeehan of the Press Association, via the Daily Mail. This adds yet more pressure on Wenger’s stretched squad. The signing of Mata would represent one of the captures of the summer.
He will, though, face competition from North London rivals Tottenham, according to Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror, who also want Mata as a replacement for Gareth Bale. Both clubs are awaiting Mourinho’s green light, and it wouldn’t be a major surprise if he gave it.