As announced on Friday, Arsene Wenger will not be returning a 23rd season at Arsenal, ending the tenure of perhaps one of the most successful managers in the club’s history.
Wenger won seventeen trophies in his time at Arsenal, seven of each in regards to the Community Shield and FA Cup, along with three Premier League titles. However, he could not clinch the Premier League since 2003-04 with the “Invincibles” squad, a team that did not lose a league game all through that season.
The timing of this move is strange, as it occurred just six days before Arsenal faces Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Europa League semifinal, perhaps their biggest match of the season. Previously, Wenger had not stated anything noteworthy about wanting to depart from Arsenal. Although, the “‘Wenger Out” protests have been surrounding the coach for some time, and could have played a small role.
“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,” he wrote in an issued statement. “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.”
Throughout the roller coaster of his career, some moments haven’t been easy for Arsene during his tenure, and he has yet to win any European trophies (although, the Europa League is still an option for this season).
Perhaps it was time for this to occur, or maybe even a year or two too late for Arsenal to start fresh and begin to challenge for titles again. The club has made a few hires that were meant to slowly phase Wenger out of controlling certain aspects of the club, but the best way for them to begin again involves a clean break.
Regarding his legacy alone, it’s possible the board didn’t feel like they could fire Wenger, as he often saved the club from trouble in the past. After exiting on his own terms, it’ll be interesting to see how supporters perceive him over his last few games.
Within the mix, Patrick Vieira, Carlo Ancelotti, and Thomas Tuchel are seen as three favorites to replace Wenger over the summer. Regardless of who takes the helm for the Gunners next season, it will certainly be different without seeing Wenger on the touchline.