Jose Mourinho has reignited his feud with Arsene Wenger after claiming Arsenal's players deliberately set out to get Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien sent off in Sunday's Premiership clash at Highbury.
Chelsea's 2-0 win, courtesy of goals from Arjen Robben and Joe Cole, ensured the champion goes nto the busy Christmas and New Year program with a nine-point cushion over Manchester United.
But Mourinho ensured that all the headlines would focus on another clash between him and Wenger by insisting that Arsenal's players had overreacted to an incident in which Essien caught Arsenal full-back Lauren with an elbow in the first half. The Blues boss claimed Arsenal attempted to capitalize on the notoriety Essien earned with a horrific lunge at Liverpool's Dietmar Hamann in their Champions League clash earlier this month.
"I saw ten players jumping on one," Mourinho said "It looked like a strategy, like they were going to use the image Essien has at this moment and in the first body-to-body situation we have to jump on him."
Wenger, who threatened to sue Mourinho earlier this year after being branded a "voyeur" by his Chelsea counterpart, scoffed at the claim.
"Essien was a straight red in my opinion - it was just in front of the dugout," he said. "The ref was not brave enough to make the decision but it was a straight red," he said."We did not even speak about this before the game. If it was a deliberate strategy, we hid it very well."
The Arsenal manager had said before the game that he would be prepared to shake Mourinho's hand. He did not get the chance however as the Chelsea manager raced straight down the tunnel on the final whistle, although the missed opportunity for a reconciliation did not trouble Wenger.
"I must say that frankly that does not stop me from sleeping," he said.
Wenger was more aggrieved over a disallowed goal from Robin van Persie that would have given his side the lead mid-way through the first half. Television replays showed that van Persie was onside when Freddie Ljungberg's pass found him.
Wenger scompalined that the referee "made a very bad decision."
"I associate the referee and linesmen in the same team - the Chelsea team," Wenger remarked drily.
Wenger conceded that his side, now languishing in eighth place and 20 points behind the leader was now out of the title picture. "We are too far behind Chelsea to consider that we will challenge them from the championship," the Frenchman acknowledged.
Mourinho underlined the significance of Sunday's victory by pointing out that his side has now completed its three most difficult fixtures - trips to Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool and won two of them.
"It is only three points but it is in a stadium where you can lose three points, so at the end of the day it's a little bit more than a victory," Mourinho said.
In Sunday's other Premiership game, Egyptian striker Mido scored an 83rd-minute header to rally Tottenham to a 3-3 draw at Middlesbrough.