Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will leave at the end of the season after a reign of almost 22 years that made him the most successful boss in the Premier League club’s history.
“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,” the Frenchman said in a statement issued by the Gunners on Friday.
Wenger, 68, has been with the North Londoners since October 1996 and is by far the longest-serving current manager in English soccer.
He is not due out of contract for another year, but Wenger has decided his time at the club is up.
Arsenal are currently a distant sixth in the league but are in the semi-finals of the Europa League, which represents their only realistic route to the Champions League next 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,” said Wenger, who urged the fans to stand behind the team to end the season 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 owner Stan Kroenke said it was “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 Arsene has brought to the club on and off the pitch,” Kroenke said.
“His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.”
Wenger won three Premier League titles, including going unbeaten for an entire season in 2003-04, seven FA Cups and took Arsenal into the Champions League for 20 years in a row. They won the league and FA cup double in 1998 and 2002.
In recent years, the club’s fans have turned against the manager, because of the club’s lack of ability to maintain a challenge for the Premier League title, and regular early exits in the knockout stages of the Champions League in Europe.
The club said a successor would be appointed as soon as possible with German Thomas Tuchel, out of work since leaving Borussia Dortmund almost a year ago, installed as the early bookmakers’ favourite.