Arsenal has confirmed that manager Arsene Wenger would be leaving his role as the team manager at the end of current season.
Wenger, 68, announced that he would leave a year before his existing contract was due to expire having led the club to three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups during a 22-year reign.
In a statement released Arsenal’s website Wenger said, “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,” the statement continued. “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 appointed as Arsenal manager in 1996 and has won three Premier League titles and a record seven FA Cups during his time in charge of the club. A European trophy has always eluded him but Arsenal are in the semi-finals of the Europa League, where they face Atletico Madrid.
The Frenchman joined Arsenal after a spell with Grampus Eight in Japan and set about revolutionising Arsenal, and English football, with new coaching and preparatory approaches, allied with a highly successful scouting and recruitment strategy, which propelled Arsenal to the double in 1997-98.
Two more league titles followed, including one unbeaten in 2003-04, but a lean decade following the move to Emirates Stadium left fans frustrated. Three FA Cups in four years between 2014 and 2017 helped to stave off some criticism but underperformance in the Premier League saw his authority come into question.
Arsenal’s Chief executive, Ivan Gazidis spoke last season about poor performances being a “catalyst for change” and Arsenal began their succession planning by bringing in head of recruitment Sven Mislintat and head of football relations Raul Sanllehi earlier this year.
But the club have not yet announced a decision on a successor for Wenger, with a statement on the official Arsenal website saying:
“Arsène will lead the team to the end of the season and we will make an appointment as soon as possible. The club will not be making any further comment on the selection process until an appointment is made.”
“Three Premier League titles, including an entire season unbeaten, seven FA Cup triumphs and 20 successive years in the Champions League is an exceptional record,” Kroenke added. “He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.
“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.
“We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal’s history and one of the greats of the game.”
Wenger himself said on Thursday that former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira “has the potential” to succeed him as manager.