Arsene Wenger is to leave his long-time role as Arsenal manager at the end of the season.
The 68-year-old Frenchman has been at the north London club since 1996.
He is the longest serving manager in the English Premier League, but has been under pressure in recent years from a disgruntled section of fans.
“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,” Wenger wrote in a statement on the Arsenal 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.”
Arsenal’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke said in a statement: “This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport.
“One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsène has brought to the club on and off the pitch. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.
“Arsène has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude.”
Under Wenger Arsenal won the Premier League title in 1998, 2002, and 2004 and clinched seven FA Cups, including three of the past four seasons. Arsenal won the league and FA Cup double in 1998 and 2002.
The 2003-2004 team was nicknamed “The Invincibles” after it went through the Premier League season undefeated — with 26 wins and 12 draws.
Arsenal, which is currently sixth in the Premier League, has only once finished outside of the top four (it was fifth in 2017) since Wenger took over.
However, European glory has eluded the Gunners. Arsenal was runner-up in the UEFA Cup in 2000 and beaten finalist in the Champions League final in 2006.
It failed to qualify for this season’s elite European competition and hasn’t reached the Champions League quarterfinals since 2010.
Former Manchester United and England international Gary Neville wrote on Twitter: “Arsene Wenger built the best teams that I played against in English Football .The 98 team was Amazing.
“The biggest compliment is that he played football that made us change the way we played against them. He now deserves the most incredible send off from all in the coming weeks.”
Arsenal said it will name a replacement “as soon as possible.”
Kroenke added: “We have high ambitions to build on Arsène’s remarkable tenure and to honour his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game.”
Wenger, born in Strasbourg, began his career as a player in France, followed by managerial stints with AS Nancy, AS Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan before joining Arsenal.
Source : CNN