Almost a month ago, french manager Arsene Wenger announced that he will leave Arsenal at the end of this season, putting an end to his 22-year spell with the Gunners.
“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 declared in a statement published on the club’s 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” the manager also said.
Wenger arrived from japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight at the North London club in 1996 to replace Bruce Rioch. Having managed only one top European club (AS Monaco) before arriving in England, his appointment was one risky move. The London Evening Standard even welcomed him at Highbury with the headline ‘Arsène Who?’
The Frenchman would prove everyone wrong by becoming by far Arsenal’s most successful manager. Wenger drastically changed the club’s philosophy and play style while keeping in mind the club’s traditions. The Frenchman’s love for offensive football made his side one of the most entertaining teams to watch.
Results came quickly as Wenger became the first non-British manager to win the Premier League title in 1997/98. He would go on to win two more in 2001–02, 2003–04 with the latest coming after the Gunners went unbeaten the whole season. This amazing achievement is considered by many as Wenger’s peak as Arsenal boss. In England, he also won a record 7 FA Cups and 7 Community Shields.
His achievements in Europe are not least impressive. Under Wenger, Arsenal played in 19 successive UEFA Champions League campaigns from 1998/99 to 2016/17. Arsène has won 98 games in Champions league and only Manchester United phenomenon Sir Alex Ferguson has won more.
Arsène Wenger at Arsenal means 1,234 matches, 706 wins, 3rd average league position, 17 trophies and impressive 1.9 goals per game which reflect an offensive style of play. With 22 years ahead of the club under his belt, Wenger is the current longest serving manager in the Premier League.
Wenger was known for spotting young french talents and turning them into international superstars. Yet, this philosophy of “making players” rather than spending colossal fees on already established stars caught up with him in recent years. With football being dramatically changed by money, Wenger’s ethics suddenly looked old-fashioned and nonfunctional.
But despite the return of silverware to the club in 2014 after nine trophy-less seasons, protests against Wenger’s reign started to emerge among supporters who felt that the time for a change had come. The club’s inability to challenge for the Premier League crown, and routine early exits in the knockout stages of the Champions League have shown Wenger himself that it is time to leave.
Arsène Wenger is not bigger than Arsenal but Arsenal is bigger because of him.
-By Bozhidar B.