Arsene Wenger is to leave Arsenal at the end of the season, ending a near 22-year reign at the club.
The Frenchman departs a year before his latest contract was due to expire.
The Gunners are sixth in the league and set to miss out on a top-four spot for the second straight season, with their hopes of reaching the Champions League resting on winning the Europa League.
Wenger, 68, won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups, including the Double in 1998 and 2002.
“I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years,” said Wenger. “I managed the club with full commitment and integrity.
“To all the Arsenal lovers, take care of the values of the club.”
Since 2006, the only trophy Arsenal have won has been the FA Cup, albeit on three occasions, while their displays in the Champions League have become increasingly poor, the nadir being their 10-2 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich last year. Wenger’s defence of this has, in part, included the financial restrictions he has had to work under as a consequence of Arsenal moving to the Emirates Stadium 12 years ago but this line of reasoning has increasingly worn thin with supporters, especially given Arsenal’s increased financial mite in recent years.
The ire of the fanbase has been stoked by the regular loss of key players, most notably Cesc Fàbregas, Robin van Persie and Alexis Sánchez, alongside the club’s slide down the Premier League. Last season they finished outside of the top four for the first time under Wenger’s reign and this year sit in sixth and just two points ahead of seventh-placed Burnley with five games to go. Arsenal are also the only team in the whole of England not to have collected a single point away from home in 2018.
Wenger has appeared almost completely oblivious to the resentment among an increasing number of Arsenal fans to his ongoing stay at the club – seen, in part, by declining attendances at the Emirates – but Friday’s announcement, which comes ahead of the Arsenal’s home match against West Ham United on Sunday, would suggest he has finally accepted he can no longer take the club forward.
It truly is the end of an era.
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