Arsene Wenger will leave his post as Arsenal manager at the end of the 2017-18 season, ending a 22-year run at one of the Premier League’s most successful clubs.
Wenger announced his impending departure in a statement released through the club Friday morning, in which he said the decision had been made “after careful consideration and following discussions with the club.”
Wenger was hired by Arsenal in September of 1996, and in the years after his appointment he changed English soccer forever. He introduced new styles and standards to a sport and a league that had become set in their ways.
And he won trophies along the way. He won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups. He led his 2003-04 team, the “Invincibles,” to the first undefeated English top-flight season since the 19th century.
He’ll have managed 828 Premier League games by the time all is said and done, the most in the league’s history. He’ll have won more than 470. He’ll have managed more than 1,230 games in all competitions, with over 700 Arsenal victories to his name.
As the rest of the Premier League caught up to his ways, Wenger’s and Arsenal’s performance suffered. The decline finally caught up with him last season, the first of his reign in which the club failed to finish in the top four.
The 2017-18 campaign looks set to be the second, and as it tumbled toward disappointment, calls for Wenger’s ouster intensified. The Frenchman had signed a two-year contract at the end of last season.
He will leave halfway through it, with a sour taste in the mouths of few fans after how his tenure ended, but with one of the best managerial careers in the history of English soccer now in the rear-view mirror, available for reflection.
“I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years,” Wenger said in his statement. “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.”
Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke also released a statement addressing Wenger’s decision:
“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 Arsène 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.
“Arsène 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 Arsène’s remarkable tenure and to honor 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 will take charge of, at maximum, eight more games at Arsenal. The Gunners have five Premier League matches remaining, and face Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semifinals. The Europa League is Wenger’s last route back to the Champions League, and one last opportunity to end 22 sterling years on a high.
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