Arsene Wenger says his 1,000th match as Arsenal boss will be the “game of the season” as his side face Chelsea on Saturday.
Arsenal sit four points behind Chelsea with a game in hand as the title race looks to be a four-way battle.
“What is very interesting is you have Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, and that has not happened for years,” said the 64-year-old Frenchman.
“None of these four can say they’re not going for it, that would be stupid.”
Wenger, who joined Arsenal in 1996, has won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups, and qualified for the Champions League in 16 consecutive seasons.
However, his last silverware came in the 2005 FA Cup and he has been widely criticised for not adding to his 11 domestic titles in the last nine years.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has been among Wenger’s leading critics and the pair will meet for the first time since the Portuguese called him “a specialist in failure” earlier this season.
“I admire him and admire Arsenal,” Mourinho said on Friday.
“It is not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support their manager, especially in the bad moments – and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot.”
Mourinho has not lost against a Wenger team in 10 attempts, but the Chelsea manager played down that statistic ahead of Saturday’s encounter.
- Premier League: 1998, 2002, 2004
- FA Cup: 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005
- FA Community Shield: 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004
- Champions League runners-up: 2006
- Uefa Cup runners-up: 2000
- League Cup runners-up: 2007, 2011
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s not against him. It’s Chelsea against Arsenal. I didn’t play Arsenal with Inter, Madrid or Porto; just Chelsea.
“It’s Arsenal v Chelsea, not me against him. Records don’t play any role – a match is a match. It’s not coach against coach, it’s team against team.”
Wenger refused to get involved in a row with Mourinho and, when asked for his opinion of the former Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss, the Frenchman said: “I keep that for myself.
“On Saturday I represent my club, I don’t represent myself, and I will behave always in respecting the values of our club, and keep my own feelings far away from that.”
Wenger described reaching 1,000 games as “a privilege” and said he is confident that Arsenal’s trophy drought will end soon.
“The next period is to deliver trophies and compete with everyone at the top level. We have great players, so I’m confident we can win trophies.”
He believes “the real quality of management is linked with consistency”, adding: “The club has always supported me. Time will tell if I managed to make this club bigger than it was when I arrived, but I hope so.
“This club has given me a chance and I’ve turned many things down and shown my loyalty.”
Wenger, whose contract expires in the summer, will become only the fourth manager – after Matt Busby, Dario Gradi and Sir Alex Ferguson – to reach the 1,000-match landmark with one English club.
Ferguson, who retired as Manchester United manager last summer after 26 years in charge, said the achievement “once again shows what stability can bring to a football club”.
“I cannot emphasise enough the level of dedication, resilience as well as sacrifice required and for that I have the utmost admiration,” said Ferguson.