Well I did not see that coming. At least not when the Gunners are still battling for the Europa League. But Arsene Wenger shocked Arsenal players on Friday after announcing that he will finally step down as manager at the end of the season after 22 years in charge.
Wenger dropped the bombshell ahead of Arsenal’s Premier League clash with West Ham at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon. There has been open unrest at the Emirates in recent years following the Frenchman’s failure to win the league title since 2004. He has however won 10 major trophies during his time in north London and will be remembered as the club’s greatest ever manager.
He told Arsenal’s official website:
‘After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season.
‘I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years. I managed the club with full commitment and integrity.
‘I want to thank the staff, the players, the Directors and the fans who make this club so special. I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high.
‘To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club. My love and support for ever.’
Sportsmail understands Arsenal’s shell-shocked players reacted to Wenger’s news by making a pact together to send him out in a blaze of glory by winning the Europa League. They face Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals, with the first-leg taking place at home next Thursday.
Wenger’s backroom staff, including the long-standing Gerry Peyton, Boro Primorac and Tony Colbert are expected to go. However, assistant manager Steve Bould could still be kept on.
Arsenal majority shareholder Stan Kroenke described this as the ‘most difficult day we have ever had’.
The American said:
‘This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport. One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsene has brought to the club on and off the pitch. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.
‘Arsene has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude. Three Premier League titles, including an entire season unbeaten, seven FA Cup triumphs and 20 successive years in the Champions League is an exceptional record. He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.
‘We have high ambitions to build on Arsene’s remarkable tenure and to honour his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game.
‘We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal’s history and one of the greats of the game.’
ARSENE WENGER’S FULL HONOURS
Winners (3) – 1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04
Runners-up (6) – 1998/99, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2015/16
Winners (7) – 1997/98, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2016/17
Runners-up (1) – 2000/01
Runners-up (3) – 2006/07, 2010/11, 2017/18
Runners-up (1) – 2005/06
Runners-up (1) – 1999/00
Winners (6) – 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2014/15, 2015/16
Runners-up (2) – 2003/04, 2005/06
Premier League Manager of the Season (3) – 1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04
League Managers’ Association Manager of the Year (2) – 2001/02, 2003/04
BBC Sports Personality Coach of the Year (2) – 2002, 2004
Premier League Manager of the Month (15)