London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger will bring his 22-year stay in charge of Arsenal to a close at the end of the season, the Frenchman announced on Friday.
“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 said in a statement posted on the club’s website.
“I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years.”
Wenger, 68, won three Premier League titles, leading the only side to go a full league season unbeaten in 2003-04, and lifted seven FA Cups during his tenure.
However, he has been under increasing pressure to step down from the club’s fans for several seasons as Arsenal haven’t won the Premier League for 14 years and risk missing out on Champions League qualification for the second consecutive season.
Arsenal’s only realistic chance of making the Champions League next season is by winning the Europa League where the Gunners face Spanish giants Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals.
“I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high,” added Wenger.
“To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club. My love and support for ever.”
Arsenal’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke paid tribute to a man of “unparallelled class”.
“Arsene has unparallelled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude,” said Kroenke, who took a controlling stake in the club in 2011.
“This is 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. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.”
Arsenal added that a successor to Wenger will be found “as soon as possible”.