Wenger clammed up when he was asked for the detail on why Kanté had preferred to join Chelsea from Leicester, whom he had helped to win the title in his only season at the club. But Wenger suggested that Chelsea's financial clout – and Arsenal's inability to compete with it – was a factor.
“Have I looked to sign Kanté? Yes. When he was in France and when he was at Leicester,” Wenger said. “I cannot explain everything [about why he preferred Chelsea] but it is quite obvious when you look at where he has gone. Was it the money? I do not want to talk about that. Transfers are transfers – you cannot explain absolutely everything.”
Wenger takes his team to Chelsea for the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday on the back of the disastrous 2-1 home defeat against Watford on Tuesday. On the same night, Chelsea secured a 1-1 draw at Liverpool, in which Kanté was outstanding.
“I feel Chelsea have found a better defensive balance since we beat then 3-0 at home in September,” Wenger said. “They are very good in transition. I watched their game against Liverpool and Kanté had a huge impact in their team.
“It's no coincidence that they are in the position that they are and Leicester were in the position they were last season. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have also come back to very strong form compared to last season, so Chelsea are very efficient when they go forward.
“It was a little bit of a wake-up call for them [at the Emirates Stadium] and [Antonio] Conte managed to change things in the right way. They benefit a little bit from the fact they are not in the Europa League or Champions League. They can prepare properly and if they want to change the system, they can work on it all week. That gave Conte time to prepare, to know the players better and that certainly helped. The integration of Kanté has had a huge impact.”
Wenger has reported that Aaron Ramsey will be out for “21 days” with the calf injury that forced him from the Watford game while he also talked up Monaco's 18-year-old attacking prospect Kylian Mbappe, suggesting that Arsenal had looked at him, too, last summer.
“It was at stake last season but he decided to stay where he was,” Wenger said. “He has similarities to Thierry Henry. First of all, he's from the Caribbean, as well, and he has a huge talent. He plays for Monaco and Thierry Henry played for Monaco.
“When I was in Monaco, I could see with Thierry Henry similarities. But of course, after that, what makes the career is the mental aspect that Thierry had. This young boy has to show that he has similar qualities on the mental front that Thierry had.”