Arsene Wenger has announced he is stepping down as Arsenal manager at the end of the season, bringing an end to a 21-and-a-half-year reign that brought unprecedented early success but has seen a late decline that made his position increasingly untenable. Wenger issued a statement earlier today that caught everyone by surprise, announcing his departure and thanking the club for letting him serve for “so many memorable years.”He added: “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.” Arsenal said a new manager will be appointed “as soon as possible.” Club chief executive Ivan Gazidis is scheduled to hold a news conference at 5 p.m. local time on Friday. According to Press Association Sport, Wenger asked Arsenal to hold off announcing his decision to leave the club so he could inform his players first.
Wenger was keen to tell the Arsenal players himself and did so ahead of training at their London Colney base and minutes before the news was made public by the club. His coaching staff were also informed of the decision in advance, although club staff working at the Emirates Stadium rather than the training ground discovered the news at the same time as everyone else. Speculation surrounding the Frenchman’s future has been rampant in recent months, with Arsenal set to miss out on a top-four finish in the Premier League for the second year running. Still, there was a general feeling that he could still save his job and see out the remaining year of his contract if Arsenal won the Europa League, thus qualifying for next season’s Champions League.