LONDON, July 28- Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes Arsenal are ready to challenge for the Premier League crown this season.
Arsene Wenger has delivered three Premier League titles since replacing Bruce Rioch as manager in 1996, but the Gunners have finished no higher than third in each of the past 10 seasons as the Frenchman often shunned big-money signings in favour of developing young talent.
Arsenal finished 13 points behind Chelsea last season as the Blues won the Premier League at a canter, but Mourinho believes the arrival in recent years of the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy for more than £100 million means the Gunners are ready to challenge for league honours.
“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, who allowed goalkeeper Petr Cech to join Arsenal in an £11million deal last month, said in the Guardian.
“If you put Ozil plus Alexis Sanchez, plus Chambers, plus 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.”
Chelsea begin their title defence at home against Swansea on the opening day of the new Premier League season on Saturday, Aug. 8. Arsenal host West Ham at the Emirates Stadium a day later.
Mourinho also responded to comments made by Manuel Pellegrini last month in which the Manchester City manager said Mourinho “wants to take credit for everything.”
“When a manager is on holidays and still thinks about me, I have nothing to say,” Mourinho said. “I don’t know why he did it. In my holidays I did zero interviews. Since I left London, zero.
“Of course I am still thinking about football, yes but I don’t do any interviews, at least in that time. You are free of everything: questions, answers, controversy, interpretation and overreaction. My holiday time — zero. If other guys use holiday time also for interviews, it’s their problem.
“I don’t have a theory why. I finished the season, I went on holiday, nothing. To other managers — nothing. So until the first one comes, nothing. It is not a battle with the other managers. My team against the other teams, yes. My team in the competition, yes. I am more than ready.”
Mourinho defended himself after a gaffe last season when he referred to Pellegrini as “Pellegrino,” saying he was confusing the coach with Mauricio Pellegrino, who played at Barcelona when Mourinho was an assistant there.
“I had a player called Pellegrino and because there were two in football at the same time, one was Mauricio Pellegrino and Mr Manuel Pellegrini,” Mourinho said. “I always made a mistake by calling one the other. The last thing I’d do is show a lack of respect.”