LONDON -- Arsene Wenger has revealed the failed opportunity to sign Yaya Toure for Arsenal over a decade ago is one of his biggest regrets.
The midfielder, who is now contracted to Manchester City, featured for Arsenal in a preseason friendly in 2003, but preferred to move to Metalurh Donetsk.
Now, the in-form Ivory Coast international is one of City’s main threats to Arsenal when they play in the Premier League on Saturday.
"It’s up at the top," Wenger said when asked how highly missing out on Toure ranked on his lift of regrets. "But let’s not forget that Yaya Toure had an agreement with us and it’s not because we did not want to sign him that he went to Ukraine.
"We had to wait for his passport in Belgium. We have made mistakes [with transfers], but this was not a mistake. He preferred to go to Metalurh Donetsk because he could go there without a passport."
Wenger went on to suggest City’s success in signing players of Toure’s calibre in recent years meant they were still benefitting from rules in place prior to financial fair play's introduction.
While the likes of City and Chelsea are now showing an eagerness to embrace financial restrictions that force them to work within a more balanced budget, Wenger suggests what he has previously described as the "financial doping" of the game remains a major issue.
"Financial fair play is coming in, but these teams in front of us [in the Premier League] have not respected financial fair play," Wenger said.
"They built their team without respecting financial fair play and now they want to respect it, but their team is built. So it is still unfair."
Despite the financial imbalance that Wenger claims Arsenal have been forced to contend with in recent years, he is still confident they can defy the odds and beat a team that overcame his side 6-3 at the Etihad earlier this season.
"We had plenty of opportunities to score in that game," Wenger said.
"We conceded three goals in the last 20 minutes when we were down to 10 men and after playing in Naples [against Napoli in the Champions League] three days before. There are plenty of positives in this game to convince us that we can beat City. Of course we conceded goals so we need to defend better on the day.
"We try to stop them by playing our game and focusing on our own strengths and of course getting it right defensively against them as they are a good offensive force, so that will be important."