Arsenal FC manager Arsene Wenger has announced he will resign at the end of the season in an emotional letter to the fans.
The 68-year-old’s announcement brings an end a trophy-laden but also increasingly restless 22-year association between him and the club.
Arsenal made the surprise announcement on 20 April. Wenger had informed the squad of his decision during training before their home match against West Ham on 22 April.
Wenger signed a fresh two-year contract extension last summer. There was speculation he would leave halfway through that deal. Very few thought he would leave before the conclusion of the current campaign. This is especially with a Europa League semi-final against Atlético Madrid to come.
“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,” said Wenger in a statement posted on Arsenal’s website.
“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.”
Wenger was relatively unknown in this country when he was appointed Arsenal’s manager in September 1996. But having led the club to the double in his first full season in charge, he quickly became viewed as a revolutionary figure.
The end of an era
He introduced sophisticated methods to the preparation and well-being of players as well as tapping into the overseas market to sign relatively unknown players such as Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit. These players turned out to be world-class talents and part of one of the most thrilling, eye-catching teams ever seen on these shores.
Another double followed in 2002 before the Invincibles campaign, when Arsenal won the 2003-04 title without losing a single game.
Two years later, Wenger led Arsenal to the Champions League final, which they lost to Barcelona. This moment ultimately proved to be the beginning of the end as far as his reputation as one of the leading managerial figures in this country.
Since 2006, the only trophy Arsenal have won has been the FA Cup, albeit on three occasions.
It truly is the end of an era.