courtesy of RTE
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will leave the club this summer, ending a 22-year association with the club.
The 68-year-old’s position has come under intense scrutiny over the past 18 months due to repeated failings in the Premier League and Champions League.
The Frenchman has lifted the FA Cup in three of the last four seasons but that has not been enough to appease some supporters and Wenger, whose side are set to compete against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-finals next week, confirmed his decision to step down on Friday morning.
In a statement released by the club, Wenger confirmed his decision, saying that he feels the time is now right for him to hand over the reins to someone else.
“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.
“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.”
Patrick Vieira will be the immediate favourite to succeed Wenger and the Arsenal boss appears to have already given his former captain his blessing to manage the club.
Reports yesterday claimed the 41-year-old New York City boss has been lined up to replace Wenger.
Vieira enjoyed a glittering nine-year stint at Arsenal during the peak of his career, lifting three Premier League titles and four FA Cups, as well as captaining Wenger’s side throughout their unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ season of 2003/04.
“He’s a guy who has the potential one day, yes,” Wenger said of Vieira’s credentials.
“He works in the moment in New York and he works for Man City. I’ve followed his managerial career. I think he does very well. But overall, after that, this Premier League is special, you know.
“You have to come in. There are plenty of former players who played here who have potential and the intelligence and the knowledge to do it. So there’s plenty of choice, don’t worry about that.”
Arsenal majority owner Stan Kroenke paid tribute to Wenger and all his achievements at the club, claiming that Wenger helped to change the vision of how football is played in the Premier League.
“This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport,” Kroenke said.
“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.
“His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.
“Arsene 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.
“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.
“He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.”
Former Arsenal defender Nigel Winterburn believes the decision is the right one.
“I think it’s run its natural course,” he told Sky Sports News. “Arsene Wenger has been absolutely amazing for Arsenal Football Club.
“It probably feels to me like it is the right time. When Arsene Wenger does step down, I think he will be remembered very, very fondly. We talk about the modern era, George Graham started it and Arsene Wenger’s taken it to the next level.
“When he leaves the football club, I think people will look back and really appreciate what Arsene Wenger has done.”