Wenger confirms Arsenal departure - Stuns Arsenal team by quitting after almost 22 years
Arsene Wenger gathered his Arsenal players to drop a bombshell before training yesterday morning.
After almost 22 years in charge of the north London club, the manager was leaving.
"We didn't see it coming," midfielder Jack Wilshere said. "He had another year left on his contract. Ever since I've known about Arsenal, Arsene has been there. I'm sad."
As the players were informed, so too was the world, via a statement from the 68-year-old Frenchman.
"After careful consideration and following discussions with the club," Wenger said. "I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season."
Wenger's carefully worded statement, coupled with the reticence of the club's leadership to publicly discuss what precipitated the announcement, pointed to a less than amicable departure amid a backdrop of mounting dissent.
"I don't want to get into all the discussions that went on," chief executive Ivan Gazidis responded, when asked if he wanted Wenger to see out the remaining year on his contract. "The decision is made, I think now it's time for us to honour him."
There is so much to honour Wenger for but largely limited to the first half of his reign.
Before the disillusionment grew among fans as the Premier League title drought persisted, there was so much affection for the manager, who revolutionised not just one team, but influenced methodology throughout English football.
The highpoint was in 2004 when Wenger became only the second manager to go through an English league unbeaten.
"One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsene has brought to the club on and off the pitch," said American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke, who bought Arsenal in 2011. "His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched."
But the 'Invincibles' season was the third - and last time - Wenger picked up the Premier League trophy.
Only twice since then have Arsenal even come second. And after slumping to fifth last season, Arsenal are set to experience a new low under Wenger by finishing sixth next month.
Empty seats in Emirates Stadium at games signalled the growing disenchantment among supporters.
As Wenger's coaching methods and tactics appeared increasingly outdated as a new generation of coaches made their mark, Wenger's power appeared to drain over the last year as executives tasked with overhauling football operations were brought in.
Now the new two-year contract that Wenger signed after winning the FA Cup for a record seventh time last May will not be completed.
Wenger can still depart by delivering one final trophy.
Even though Arsenal are sixth in the Premier League, there can still be a successful conclusion to the season with the team in contention to win the Europa League.