WENGER CALLS TIME ON CAREER
Arsene Wenger has brought an end to his 19-year-reign of Arsenal by confirming his retirement from football, walking away from the North Londoners after winning the UEFA Champions’ League and the Barclays Premier League and FA Cup double.
The Gunners boss had been under intense pressure at the start of the season by the media and a sector of the club's fans, but still signed a new one-year-deal and managed to formulate yet another league winning side, the fourth of his era and one that had been absent in North London since 2004.
Having refused to renew his stay with the Gunners, the 65-year-old explained his reasoning for retiring from football after such a successful season.
“When you are part of a team for so long, the club becomes your life and you feel more attached to it than you thought you ever could. Managing Arsenal stopped being a job a long, long time ago. For a very long while, this has been me trying to push the club I love as far as I can; my job as a fan of the club.
“So, of course, it’s a sad day for me to finally walk away from it all, but I feel there is no better time. Arsenal are on the up, ready to compete with any team and I promised to myself to leave Arsenal in its best condition when I left.
“As a lover of the club, I have to think of the transition of a new manager, with new ideologies and philosophies, so the team needs to be the best it can be for the club to continue to progress. I don’t know what’s better than winning the League and Champions’ League.”
In and around the footballing world, current and ex-professionals have been paying tribute to the man nicknamed ‘Le Professeur’ on social media.
Arsenal winger Theo Walcott dubbed Wenger “a gentleman of football”
via his Twitter page, whereas Gunners legend Thierry Henry simply tweeted, “#OneArseneWenger”
Sky Sports pundit and ex-Manchester United defender Gary Neville has expressed his admiration for Wenger and the decision he’s made to stick it out with the Gunners through more turbulent times and to then depart once the ship was steadied.
“I don’t think we’re likely to ever see a manager less selfish than Arsene Wenger in the Premier League. 12 months ago and further, we were sat here talking about his achievements in the last nine years prior to this season and many thought it was time for him to go.
“The environment at Arsenal was toxic at times towards what is their best ever manager, in my opinion. Many would have left, joined Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain or something, and kept their pride and reputation intact.
“That was never the deal with Arsene Wenger. I think he sensed that football had changed a lot, it coincided with their stadium move and resource limits, so that was why he struggled, but he kept at it, regardless.
“Arsenal now stand as English champions and champions or Europe, and I think Wenger has seen this as the perfect gateway to walk from it all. Arsenal has arrived in its shores safely and it’s time for somebody new to either continue his legacy, or make a new one.
“The best comparison right now is how Sir Alex Ferguson left and the state David Moyes found Manchester United in. Sir Alex had done wonders with the squad he had, but anyone else would have struggled, and Man United did just that.
“Arsenal’s transition should be much cleaner. They have a top class side, they've just won multiple honours and still have the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere coming into their peak. It’s a very calculated move by Wenger and one we should all applaud”
Wenger was brought to Arsenal in the Autumn of 1996 from Japanese club Nagoya Grampus Eight, being welcomed to England with headlines such as, ‘Arsene Who?’
It didn’t take long for Wenger to become adored by Gunners’ fans, however, winning the league and cup double in 1998 before repeating his dosage in 2002, as Arsenal served as Man United’s direct rivals in England.
Wenger guided his Arsenal side to the Premier League title in 2004, his third of his career, in which the Gunners finished the season undefeated and extended their run of 49 games into the 2004/2005 season before Man United beat them 2-0 at Old Trafford.
Picking up five FA Cup trophies between 1998 and 2005, Arsenal then had to wait a total of nine years before they tasted fresh cup glory again in 2014, losing finals in 2006, 2007 and 2011 before a 3-2 win over Hull City over 12 months ago.
Wenger’s latter half of his Arsenal career was filled with moderated joy, a lot of frustration, anger, but overall, patience, as the Arsenal board and many of the club’s fans were rewarded for their commitment and continued support for the Frenchman during the years of the trophy drought, as Wenger added the finishing touches to his CV with the FA Cup, Premier League title and Arsenal’s first ever Champions’ League trophy this season.