"Thank you Arsène", London football club Arsenal wrote in French in a press release. French coach Arsène Wenger will leave Arsenal at the end of the season, after 22 years of loyal service.
"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 the coach in a statement posted on the Arsenal site, declaring his "love and support forever" for the club. "I managed the club with commitment and total integrity," saidthe 68-year-old technician, who urged "fans to support the team to finish in style".
The club's majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, praised his coach's "unmatched class", highlighting his longevity and consistency at the highest level. These qualities "will never be equalled", he said.
Arsène Wenger is the longest-serving Premier League coach. Unknown to the British press and fans of the club when he arrived in 1996, Wenger managed, in two decades, to make Arsenal one of the first-class clubs of the British championship, and important on the European scene. It was also during his reign that the club inaugurated its new home ground, the Emirates Stadium.
He has won three league titles, including one after a season without defeat, and seven FA Cups. Arsenal also participated, for twenty consecutive years, in the Champions League, the queen of European competitions, reaching the final in 2006 to lose against Barcelona. The club also reached a final of what was then the UEFA Cup in 2000, also losing against Turkish club Galatasaray.
His legitimacy at the helm of the team had been called into question in recent months, particularly following the non-qualification of Arsenal for the Champions League this season. Arsenal nonetheless remains in the Europa League race, where they are in the semifinals against Atlético Madrid.
The club is currently sixth in the Premier League, and seems out of the running in the qualifying heats for the Champions League at this stage – not a great final season to go out on, but Arsenal fans will be more than satisfied with Wenger's tenure nevertheless.