AS far as we know the two men have never even spoken, yet they are English football’s two most influential immigrants.
The Frenchman who transformed the way English players approached the game.
And the Russian who revolutionised the Premier League’s boardrooms.
This rivalry, in the Arsenal manager’s mind, is a battle for football’s soul. Is the game about artistry or is it about money?
Over the course of 14 years, cold, hard cash has tended to win through – at least that’s how Wenger sees it.
Abramovich was the first foreign businessman to buy a Premier League club, in 2003 – now more than half are owned by overseas investors.
And during this time the idea of an all-powerful manager, who runs a club from top to bottom, has been eroded to such an extent that Wenger is the last man standing.
Today it is not inconceivable that Abramovich’s Chelsea could finish him off too.
A new contract for Wenger is still very likely to be announced next month, even after Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.
It has already been confirmed that the Gunners are the only one of England’s ‘big six’ clubs who will not be playing Champions League football next term.
A pasting at Wembley could lead to open rebellion among the clear majority of Arsenal supporters in the ‘Wenger Out’ camp.
And Wenger is getting his retaliation in first – warning against a populist decision to withdraw his contract offer.
A narrow defeat should see Wenger survive, given that there is no appetite in the boardroom to sack him and no chance of this deeply obsessive man walking away of his own volition.
But victory over Chelsea would be especially sweet for Wenger. Even without the open hatred of his rivalry with Jose Mourinho, this fixture still symbolises something extra to the Frenchman.
Wenger’s most towering achievement – the 2003-4 Invicibles campaign – arrived during Abramovich’s first season at Chelsea, when Claudio Ranieri’s Blues were runners-up.
But that summer Abramovich hired Jose Mourinho, Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Arjen Robben and Ricardo Carvalho and the balance of power in London shifted decisively.
Wenger’s great boardroom ally David Dein memorably referred to Abramovich ‘parking his Russian tanks on our lawn and firing £50 notes at us’.
For years Wenger would seethe about the nouveau riche across town, accusing them of ‘financial doping’ and criticising Abramovich for failing to set any moral tone at his club in light of the Ashley Cole tapping-up storm.
Abramovich bullied Arsenal off the pitch and Drogba bullied Arsenal on it – with 13 goals and countless bruises inflicted during 15 games against the Gunners. Nowadays, Diego Costa has a similar effect.
Wenger’s response to the muscular efficiency of Mourinho’s classic Chelsea teams of 2004 to 2006 was a ruinous fixation with pure-football fundamentalism, rather than the balanced approach of his greatest teams.
Since the Invincibles campaign, Arsenal have finished above Chelsea only twice – and one of those was in 2012, when the Blues became the only London team ever to lift the European Cup.
By last year, though, it felt as if Arsenal might wrest back supremacy.
They finished last season 21 points clear of the Blues and when the sides met at the Emirates in September, it genuinely felt as though Arsenal might have lost their inferiority complex against Chelsea as Antonio Conte’s men were were played off the park and gubbed 3-0.
It proved a false dawn. Unlike the latter-day Wenger, Conte showed tactical flexibility and imagination in moving to a 3-4-3 which transformed Chelsea’s season and leaves them red-hot favourites to win the club’s second Double.
Wenger followed suit, tactically, some six months later.
By then, Arsenal had suffered a familiar meltdown at Stamford Bridge, as Eden Hazard’s peachy solo goal lit up a 3-1 victory.
So Chelsea are capable of beautiful football.
Oh and Arsenal are capable of spending money too.
Which of the two clubs has a net transfer spend of £65m over the past three years – a cool £100million LESS than the other?
Abramovich’s self-sufficient Chelsea, as it happens.
Although when you’re willing to spend more money on Granit Xhaka than Chelsea spent on N’Golo Kante, it’s proof that money, without footballing acumen, can’t buy you success.
As Abramovich might point out to Wenger if the two ever meet.
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