Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho struck back at Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger over comments the Gunners' boss made about managers, including Mourinho, who downplay their club's chances of winning a championship.
ESPN UK passed along Wenger's remarks after reporters asked him about Mourinho's insistence that the Premier League title isn't Chelsea's to lose despite sitting atop the table. The longtime leader of Arsenal said it comes down to a fear of failing:
It is fear to fail.
It is very open, only Chelsea can lose it because they are in front and all the other teams can win it.
The outspoken Mourinho certainly wasn't going to let those comments pass without a response. Miguel Delaney of ESPN passed along the rebuttal, which was a swift attack on Wenger, going as far as calling him a "specialist in failure:"
Mourinho on Wenger: "He is a specialist in failure. I'm not."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) February 14, 2014
Mourinho went on to explain the criticism by saying Arsenal's trophy drought can't be labeled anything but failure:
Mourinho: "The reality is he's a specialist because eight years without a piece of silverware, that is failure."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) February 14, 2014
Finally, the Chelsea manager said he wouldn't even want to stay with the club that long because of all the constant building it takes over that time frame:
Mourinho: "If Mr Abramovich gives me eight years... in eight years you have to build so much, so much, so much... I don't want eight years."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) February 14, 2014
Wenger has been with Arsenal for nearly two decades.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the entire ordeal is the Frenchman's decision to speak out against managers who understate their title chances right now.
It's a very common tactic around the world of sports as coaches attempt to limit the amount of pressure on their players' shoulders. Mourinho isn't the first person to use that approach, and he certainly won't be the last either.
Which manager do you side with in the debate?
Furthermore, Wenger has dealt with Mourinho long enough that he should have known the war of words would escalate if he spoke out. It puts more media attention on Arsenal heading into the stretch run of a very close title chase, which is rarely a positive.
Looking ahead, the verbal dispute definitely adds more intrigue to the Premier League race.
Chelsea currently sit atop the table with 57 points. Arsenal are one point back. Manchester City are three points behind but hold a match in hand. Liverpool and Tottenham are still within striking distance if everything falls their way over the final few months.
The back-and-forth comments will also increase the spotlight when the two club face off next month at Stamford Bridge. It's a clash that is going to have a major impact on the title race, and now both managers will be out to make a major statement.
After Mourinho's response, the ball is back on Wenger's side of the pitch if he wants to keep the war of words alive.