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.
The 68-year-old Frenchman, who joined Arsenal from Nagoya Grampus Eight all the way back in 1996, stunned players and staff, telling them about his departure completely out of the blue at the club’s London Colney training base. He introduced the sudden revelation by telling them ‘I have bad news’, before captain Per Mertesacker addressed his team-mates.
Wenger’s announcement also divided Arsenal fans, with many thanking him for his time in charge – while others posted messages saying good riddance.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger announced the shock decision to step down at end of the season
Wenger penned an emotional statement to Arsenal supporters on Friday morning
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)
Sportsmail understands that the club are looking to Germany for Wenger’s replacement. Former Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel and Germany boss Joachim Low are among the frontrunners. However, the board are also understood to like Brendan Rodgers.
Wenger penned an emotional statement to Arsenal supporters on Friday morning as he announced his departure, offering them ‘my love and support for ever’.
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.
Tuchel is the bookies’ favourite to take over from Wenger in the summer. The 44-year-old German is highly regarded internationally and is without a club after leaving Dortmund last year.
Arsenal’s links to Dortmund have grown strong in recent years with the German club’s former recruitment guru Sven Mislintat taking up a similar role at the Emirate Stadium last November. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was signed from Dortmund in January for £57million, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan is also a former Dortmund man.
Germany boss Low is also high up in the running, and could relish linking up with Arsenal’s German contingent, including Mesut Ozil and Shkodran Mustafi, after this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Carlo Ancelotti, a three-time Champions League-winning manager, is a free agent, while legendary Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira would be a popular choice with fans – he has been cutting his managerial teeth at New York City. Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri and former Liverpool boss Rodgers are also strongly fancied for the job.
Arsene Wenger guided Arsenal to three Premier League titles during his long-spell at the club
Wenger, alongside Arsenal legend Tony Adams here, won a record-breaking seven FA Cups
Wenger brought in some of the biggest signings in Arsenal history, including Thierry Henry
|Competition||Games||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals for||Goals against||Win %|
|Champions League qualifying||14||13||1||0||30||3||92.9%|
|UEFA Cup/Europa League||23||14||5||4||51||21||60.9%|
Meanwhile, Wenger himself is second favourite to take over as manager at Ligue 1 giants Paris-Saint Germain, behind Arsenal target Tuchel.
The Gunners hope the announcement will ignite the club’s hopes of winning the Europa League as Wenger looks to go out on high.
Wenger had been desperate to stay on; but the club’s powerbrokers have been dead set on the Frenchman leaving this summer following the their disappointing season.
Sportsmail revealed in February that Wenger leaving was emerging as a genuine option and the news has now been confirmed.
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis is set to talk about Wenger’s departure at 5pm.
Meanwhile, Arsenal majority shareholder Stan Kroenke described this as the ‘most difficult day we have ever had’.
Wenger joined Arsenal as an unknown from Nagoya Grampus Eight back in 1996
Wenger poses inside Highbury after joining the Premier League giants back in 1996
The Frenchman played an influential role in Arsenal’s move to the Emirates Stadium
WENGER’S REIGN IN NUMBERS…
1996 – the year when a then-unheralded Wenger, who had been in charge at Monaco and Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight, took over at Highbury.
1228 – games at the helm, ahead of Sunday’s Premier League fixture against West Ham.
704 – wins to date as Arsenal boss.
3 – Premier League title wins, the last during an unbeaten Invincibles campaign of 2003/2004.
1549 – goals scored in Premier League matches by Wenger’s teams.
10 – major trophies won.
473 – Premier League victories.
7 – FA Cup triumphs, with three of those having come the last four seasons.
151 – Premier League losses.
21 – full seasons in charge.
49 – games unbeaten in the Premier League from May 2003 to October 2004.
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.’
Wenger saw his side fall at the last hurdle of the 2006 Champions League, losing to Barcelona
Wenger enjoyed an enthralling rivalry with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson
WHEN WENGER TOOK OVER…
UK Prime Minister was John Major
US President was Bill Clinton
No 1 single in UK charts was Ready or Not by The Fugees
Cost of petrol per litre was 52.9p (now £1.19)
Premier League champions were Manchester United
European champions were Juventus
The world-record transfer fee was £15million – Alan Shearer, Blackburn to Newcastle
Average ticket for Arsenal home game cost £14.50 (cheapest for ‘Category A’ game is now £65.50)
Arsenal’s total annual wage bill was £15.3million (now £210million)
Arsenal’s record signing was £7.5million – Dennis Bergkamp (now £56m – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang)
Wenger has managed Arsenal to three Premier League titles, including winning the league at arch rivals Tottenham, and a record-breaking seven FA Cups during his spell in charge of the North London outfit.
The 68-year-old has endured a difficult time of late, with the fans growing increasingly frustrated with Arsenal falling further behind their Premier League rivals.
The Gunners missed out on Champions League qualification last year and look likely to once again this term, unless Wenger leads Arsenal to glory in the Europa League in Lyon at the end of the season.
The unrest has been clear to see, with vast numbers of the Gunners’ faithful staying away from the Emirates in recent months, with apathy ruling the fanbase.
Arsenal supporters grew restless with Wenger, taking this banner to various matches
Supporters take ‘Time for change’ and ‘Wenger out’ banners to Arsenal matches
After a barren spell in charge of Arsenal, Wenger won three FA Cups in 2014, 2016 and 2017
April 22: West Ham (H)
April 26: Atletico Madrid (H) – Europa League
April 29: Manchester United (A)
May 3: Atletico Madrid (A) – Europa League
May 6: Burnley (H)
May 9: Leicester (A)
May 13: Huddersfield (A)
Despite the sour ending to his time at Arsenal, Wenger has left a long-lasting legacy in north London, with many fans and former players, such as Cesc Fabregas, David Seaman, Tony Adams and Paul Merson, leading the tributes.
Even Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn weighed in, thanking Wenger for everything he has done for the Gunners.
Corbyn, whose 35 years as Islington North MP overlaps Wenger’s 22 years as Gunners manager, said: ‘This is a huge piece of news.
‘Thank you Arsene, for everything you’ve done for our club and for our community. You took the club to a higher plane. Your kindness to so many people in Islington has been inspirational. It has been a pleasure.
‘I’ve always been impressed by his courtesy, his incredible grasp of languages and his ability to relate to people at all levels.’
Spain and Chelsea’s Fabregas, who burst in to the Arsenal starting line-up under Wenger, posted on Instagram: ‘Wow. I never expected that but it shows the great dignity and class of the man. I will never forget his guidance and support, his tutelage and mentorship.
He added: ‘He had faith in me from day one and I owe him a lot, he was like a father figure to me who always pushed me to be the best. Arsene, you deserve all the respect and happiness in the world. Class act’
Cesc Fabregas has labelled Wenger like a ‘father figure’ and insists he is a ‘class act’
Following his departure, former Gunners No 1 David Seaman said Wenger ‘is Arsenal’
Former Arsenal goalkeeper Seaman, Wenger’s number one for the first seven years of his reign, was pleased to see Wenger leaving on his own terms.
Seaman told talkSPORT: ‘It’s going to be good now, because there’s going to be a chance he will get the send-off and the respect he deserves. The fans that are celebrating like they’ve won the lottery, it makes me a little bit angry if I’m honest. It’s time to show respect and realise what he’s done.
‘For me, he is Arsenal, and it’s right that he’s decided to leave on his own terms.
‘Now let’s enjoy that. I hope all the fans that have stayed away now return because they’ve still got a chance of winning something this season. Get behind the team, get behind Arsenal, and show him the respect he deserves.
‘He’s a gentleman. It’s brilliant to be in his company. He’s a really, really nice guy – and a lot of people don’t see that. People say he’s stubborn and this and that, but that’s not true. It might have been true as a manager, but as a man he’s a true gentleman.
‘When he came in he changed everything – the way we played, the diet… He revolutionised Arsenal. He was brilliant. For me, and especially for the back four – he added years to their careers.’
Former Arsenal captain Tony Adams posted on Instagram: ‘Thanks for everything Arsene. Move over Herbert, Arsene Wenger the greatest Arsenal Manager.’
Former Arsenal defender Nigel Winterburn believes the decision is the right one.
Tony Adams has labelled his former French boss as the ‘greatest Arsenal manager’
‘I think it’s run its natural course,’ he told Sky Sports News. ‘Arsene Wenger has been absolutely amazing for Arsenal Football Club.
‘It probably feels to me like it is the right time. When Arsene Wenger does step down, I think he will be remembered very, very fondly. We talk about the modern era, George Graham started it and Arsene Wenger’s taken it to the next level.
‘When he leaves the football club, I think people will look back and really appreciate what Arsene Wenger has done.’
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was ‘surprised’ by the announcement of ‘outstanding personality’ Wenger’s imminent departure, and says the Premier League will be ‘different without him’.
The German, speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, said: ‘I was surprised.
‘It is his decision and we have to respect that. He was and is still an influencer in football. He’s had a fantastic career, an outstanding personality and very successful.
‘Maybe in the last few months not everyone was happy, but he was the dominating guy in the mid-90s/2000s. He was always a big role model and it will be different without him.’
Former Arsenal star Paul Merson hopes Arsenal fans give Wenger the send-off he deserves
Furthermore, former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson has urged fans to get behind the Frenchman for the rest of the season, starting with Sunday’s home match against West Ham.
Merson told Sky Sports News: ‘I think everybody can pay their respect to him now about how great he was as a manager. It’s perfect timing.
‘I think it gives the fans (the chance) to pack the Emirates for the last few games of the season and have a right go.
‘If fans do not turn up against West Ham and pack that place out, they need serious questions asked about them and are they real Arsenal fans or are they glory-hunters?’
Merson called for the Emirates Stadium to be renamed in Wenger’s honour.
‘They should drop the Emirates bit – they don’t need the money – and name it the Arsene Wenger Stadium,’ the 50-year-old said. ‘That’s his stadium. He built that. He made that stadium. Even if they called it the Emirates Arsene Wenger Stadium. He deserves to be on that.’