AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso has said he has “the utmost respect” for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger but wants to deepen his problems in the Europa League on Thursday.
Gattuso became Milan’s coach in November, while Wenger took the reins at Arsenal in 1996 when Gattuso was only starting his playing career with Perugia.
The 40-year-old hailed his opposite number, who is under increasing pressure after a poor run of form continued with defeat at Brighton last weekend.
“This is not a battle between Gattuso and Wenger, because that would not be a contest,” Gattuso told a news conference.
“He’s a man with immense experience. He’s won a lot in his career and been at the same club for 22 years.
“He’s near the end, whereas I’ve only just started. It’s going to be an interesting game and I bring a fresher mentality to the table, but he’s got immense experience and I’ve got the utmost respect for him. I can just stand aside and salute him.
“I’d love to [have a career like Wenger’s], but I’m never going to make it to 22 years. I’m an unorthodox coach — when I finish my training sessions, I’m more exhausted than the players.
“If I want to last for such a long time something’s got to calm me down, but I would like to build something here like he has.”
Gattuso said he hoped Milan could take advantage of the Gunners’ difficulties, with winning the Europa League appearing to be the Londoners’ last chance of making it into next season’s Champions League.
“They’re in a bit of a rough patch but they are still a side full of champions,” he said. “They’ve scored 18 goals in the Europa League this season, so we’re going to have to be very careful.
“But Milan have not played a game like this in Europe for years, and we want to enjoy the moment and raise the bar a bit.
“We’ve got to keep the ball and make them run, because they don’t like that, and then remember we’ve got 70,000 fans on our side in the San Siro.
“We’ve got to play our game because we’ve got enough quality to cause them problems. People are saying that we can beat them, but these are just words for now. What happens out there will tell us what we can do.
“We’re up against a side who are struggling, but they are still better than us. Let’s see what level we’re at tomorrow. Certainly we’ve got a good mentality, so let’s see how far this gets us.”
Milan are eight games unbeaten in Serie A and have lost only once in Europe this season, scoring 27 goals in a campaign including two qualifying rounds.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.