Dick Advocaat praises fellow veteran, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, ahead of first meet

Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger during the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 17, 2014. See PA Story SOCCER FA Cup. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see www.paphotos.com/info/ for full restrictions and further information.
Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger during the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 17, 2014. See PA Story SOCCER FA Cup. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see www.paphotos.com/info/ for full restrictions and further information.

Between them, the two oldest statesmen in the Premier League have more than 60 years experience in the dug-out.

But for all their silverware and Champions League campaigns, Dick Advocaat and Arsene Wenger have never tested each other on a head-to-head basis.

We have to make it as hard for them as possible defensively, play sharp and create our own chances

Dick Advocaat

That will all-change tonight, with Wenger’s Arsenal side standing as the barrier towards Advocaat’s hopes of fulfilling his remit of securing Sunderland’s Premier League status.

“I’ve met him once in Switzerland for a coaches get-together,” said Advocaat.

“I’ve managed many, many Champions League games with Rangers, PSV and Zenit, but never against Arsenal. It’s strange.”

While Advocaat has led a nomadic experience across European club football, plus international campaigns with Holland, Belgium, Russia, Serbia and South Korea, Wenger has become part of the furniture at Arsenal.

Even despite a growing tide of impatience among Arsenal supporters to challenge for the Premier League title again, Wenger continues to preside over his empire.

Advocaat is not one for back-slapping or offering luscious praise unnecessarily. He’s all business.

Yet as he looks ahead to this week’s meetings with Premier League heavyweights Arsenal and Chelsea, the 67-year-old is forthcoming in his praise for Messrs Wenger and Mourinho.

“I admire Wenger and Mourinho, because everyone can say what they want about them, but it’s unbelievable what they have achieved,” he said.

“Arsenal play the right way with a great manager, although so is Mourinho.

“They are two of the best managers in the world. It doesn’t matter where they work, they show their commitment to the club with the results and prizes.”

How does Advocaat overcome the next adversary in this first, brief baptism of Premier League football though?

The Sunderland head coach rubbishes the notion that Arsenal’s players will have their flip-flops on; casting lustful gazes towards the tropical beaches that await them this summer.

Wenger is a “winner” says Advocaat and will want to emerge victorious, even if a point would secure a third placed finish for Arsenal and of course leave Sunderland breathing easily on the final day of the season.

The pattern will inevitably develop tonight of Arsenal monopolising possession and looking to break down a Sunderland defence, who would more than gladly accept a goalless draw.

Yet Advocaat has again stressed that he will avoid “parking the bus” in North London.

Advocaat says Sunderland must worry an Arsenal defence likely to be without ill centre-half Laurent Koscielny, and believes there will be opportunities on the counter-attack to exploit the Gunners’ open approach.

“I always think against the top teams, like Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City, they like to play football,” the Dutchman said.

“They give you the chance to do something.

“That will happen, so we have to win the duels.

“Arsenal have too much individual skill for us to just defend.

“We have to make it as hard for them as possible defensively, play sharp and create our own chances.”