Arsène Wenger, Arsenal’s longest-serving and most successful-ever manager, is to step down from his job at the end of the season after 22 years at the helm.
Wenger has won three Premier League titles, an all-time record seven FA Cups, two doubles, reached the 2006 European Cup final and went the entire 2003-04 Premier League season undefeated, but has faced opposition over recent seasons at the repeated failure to challenge for either the Premier League or Champions League.
Arsenal are still in the semi-finals of the Europa League but, even with the possibility of returning to the Champions League through that competition, a decision has been made to end the uncertainty that has hung over the club in recent months.
Wenger confirmed the decision this morning and, as ever, he stressed the importance of maintaining the values he has embodied in his time in English football. Put simply, that is an entertaining style of football, opportunities for young players and a fiscal structure that safeguards the club’s long-term future.
“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,” said Wenger. “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. 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, has always been a massive supporter of Wenger and regarded this as perhaps the toughest decision in his time in sport.
“This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport,” he said. “One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsène 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.
“Arsène has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude. Three Premier League titles, including an entire season unbeaten, seven FA Cup triumphs and 20 successive years in the Champions League is an exceptional record. He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.
“We have high ambitions to build on Arsène’s remarkable tenure and to honour his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game.
“We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal’s history and one of the greats of the game.”
Arsenal have said that they will make an appointment as soon as possible.
'He deserves respect from the whole world of football'
Our man Matt Law was at Stamford Bridge today and asked Antonio Conte for his thoughts on Arsene Wenger.
Reaction to Wenger?
"My reaction... I think we must pay a great tribute to Arsene Wenger for his career. For his career at Arsenal. He and Ferguson, we're talking about the last two managers to stay for such a long time in a club. Arsene Wenger worked 22 years for Arsenal. I think that's great, it's a fantastic story. He won a lot at this club and, for this reason, I think he deserves a great tribute for his career."
What was his influence in a footballing sense?
"I think Arsene is one of the managers who had a great influence on football because, in every moment in his idea of football, he tried to play good football, creative and offensive football. He deserves great tribute also for this."
How important is it that he gains that great tribute?
"He deserves great respect. Not only from Arsenal supporters, but from the whole world of football. He deserves great respect. We are talking about one of the best managers in the world with a great and important career with Arsenal. He deserves a great tribute for his career. It would be very difficult to see in the future another manager staying for such a long time at the same club. I think, maybe, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger were a really good story for football. Now it will be very difficult to see that again, another situation like this."
'A proper football man who lives and breathes it'
David Moyes, whose West Ham side face Arsenal on Sunday, hailed Arsene Wenger's longevity.
"He's been a great competitor, a terrific manager who has graced the Premier League for many years.
"He's a proper football man who lives and breathes it. To do 22 years is an incredible achievement."
'There are not enough words for what he's done'
Burnley boss Sean Dyche, who will be the second-longest serving current manager in the Premier League once Arsene Wenger stands down, has paid tribute to the Frenchman.
"He is a legend of the game - the work that he's done will be remembered.
"Some things that now seem normal and simple weren't at the time. Hydration in football sounds a simple thing but was not taken to a high level. Making sure the food they were eating was correct. Their health and well-being.
"For youngish managers like myself there are not enough good words you can use for what he's done."
'It was a pleasure to compete against him'
Pep Guardiola, manager of new Premier League champions Man City, has also spoken.
"He is a huge personality. The Premier League is the Premier League because of what he has done and his vision. I wish him all the best for the future.
"Hopefully he will be involved in a different way in world football. Of course it was a pleasure at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and here to compete against him."
'Arsenal fans will unite behind Wenger now'
Paul Matz from the Arsenal Independent Supporters' Association, has told The Telegraph he believes the club will unite behind departing manager Arsene Wenger for the rest of the season as they focus on winning the Europa League.
Mourinho asked about Wenger... wait for it
Jose Mourinho has claimed that deep down he really respects Arsene Wenger and his various insults over the years did not reflect his true relationship with the Arsenal manager, who announced that he will leave the club at the end of the season.
"If he's happy with the decision he makes and looks forward to the next chapter of his career and his life I'm really happy for him. If he's sad, I'm sad. I'm pretty sure as a club - and especially because Mr Wenger and Arsenal were for many, many years the biggest rivals of Sir Alex [Ferguson's] era - we will show Mr Wenger the respect he deserves."
Asked whether he regretted many of his spats with Wenger, which were often characterised by the strength of Mourinho's response, he was dismissive.
"It's not about regretting. I think your question is a typical question from somebody that was not a manager, not a player. Of course, you don't know the way we respect each other even when sometimes it doesn't look like we don't.
"Players that get yellow cards and red cards by aggressive actions against each other, bad words during the career - the manager is the same thing. The ones that respect each other more are the ones with the problems. It's power against power; ambition against ambition; quality against quality. But in the end it's people from the same business who respect one another’s careers.
"So it happened. What matters for me is the way I respect the person, the professional, the career. I always say that for some the memories are short, but for us football people - the real football people, the others live on us - don't have short memories. I know what it means, three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups, what he did in Japan and France, what he brought to French football.
"[Also] What he gave to Arsenal in the period without Premier Leagues, the transition from stadium to stadium, we know what he did. If he's happy with the decision, I'm really happy and I hope he doesn't retire from football."
Where it all began for Wenger
The Top 10 longest-serving managers in Premier League history
- Arsene Wenger, Arsenal, October 1996 to May 2018 (21 years, seven months)
- Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United, August 1992 to May 2013 (20 years, nine months)
- David Moyes, Everton, March 2002 to May 2013 (11 years, two months)
- Harry Redknapp, West Ham, August 1994 to May 2001 (six years, eight months)
- Rafael Benitez, Liverpool, August 2004 to June 2010 (five years, 10 months)
- Alan Curbishley, Charlton, August 2000 to May 2006 (five years, nine months)
- Sam Allardyce, Bolton, August 2001 to April 2007 (five years, eight months)
- Gerard Houllier, Liverpool, November 1998 to May 2004 (five years, six months)
- Jim Smith, Derby, August 1996 to October 2001 (five years, two months)
- Sir Bobby Robson, Newcastle, September 1999 to August 2004 (four years, 11 months)
'One of the best in English football history'
Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore offered his own tribute to Arsene Wenger.
"It is hard to encapsulate the enormity of Arsene Wenger's contribution to Arsenal Football Club, the Premier League and football generally over these past 22 seasons.
"All of Arsene's teams have been a joy to watch and his 2003-04 'Invincibles' will go down as one of the best in English football history."
'One major reason why I'm here is because of him'
Club captain Per Mertesacker admitted it was "emotional" to find out that Arsene Wenger was set to depart.
"We have just been informed basically. It is quite emotional. Obviously he has been at the club for such a long time, he has been so supportive to me. One major reason why I'm here is because of him.
"It's been emotional and there will be time to digest it but it is a sad feeling right now."
Wenger told players of his exit beforehand
Arsene Wenger asked Arsenal to hold off announcing his decision to leave the club so he could inform his players first-hand.
The news was announced this morning, with Wenger set to depart 12 months into a two-year deal.
It is understood Wenger was keen to tell the Arsenal players himself and did so ahead of training at their London Colney base and minutes before the news was made public.
His coaching staff were also informed of the decision in advance, although club staff working at the Emirates Stadium rather than the training ground discovered the news at the same time as everyone else.
Wenger's surprise announcement came a day after he evaded questions over his future at his usual pre-match press conference.
How many times did your team lose to Wenger's Arsenal?
Was your club one of the teams Arsene Wenger had the wood over?
'Today will mark the start of a new era for the club'
Arsene Wenger's decision to leave Arsenal at the end of the season is good for all those involved, according to a leading supporters' group.
Lois Langton, chair of the Arsenal Independent Supporters' Association, believes the timing is right and hailed Wenger as a "fantastic" manager in his day.
"Without question, the announcement that Arsene Wenger will finally stand down at the end of this season is the right decision, both for the club and the manager, although, having been so long coming, it feels surreal that the day has finally arrived.
"The problems associated with his tenure in recent years are well documented and now that the announcement has been made, there is nothing to be gained by going over old ground.
"Arsene Wenger was, for a period of time, a fantastic manager for Arsenal. The Invincibles epitomise what he brought to the Club and, to that extent, his legacy will continue.
"We have seen with Manchester City this season how difficult it is to go a league campaign undefeated. The 2003/2004 season in particular will forever be a source of pride and achievement.
"It is now time to move on. We have a Europa League semi-final coming up against Atletico and a first success in Europe for Arsene Wenger would provide a fitting farewell.
"Arsenal has a rich and wonderful heritage and today will mark the start of a new era for the club."
Will Arsenal now raise their game against the Hammers?
Arsenal play West Ham this Sunday. Here's our man Nick Callow's abbreviated preview:
West Ham are not mathematically safe from relegation so Arsenal should fear a club they have lost to three times at Emirates Stadium. Arsenal can be pipped to sixth by Burnley, but Thursday's Europa Atletico Madrid semi-final will dictate Arsene Wenger's selection while David Moyes can go for broke.
VOTE: Who should Arsenal choose to replace Wenger?
Where next for Wenger?
Seeing as the man eats, drinks and sleeps football, it is highly unlikely he will walk off into the sunset and retire.
The odds are now stacked in favour of him becoming the next Paris Saint-Germain manager, with Unai Emery expected to be shown the door by the Paris giants.
Wenger would also be a a highly-popular choice given his profile in France and continuing analysis as a guest pundit for French TV.
'Name it the Arsene Wenger Stadium'
Former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson has urged fans to get behind the Frenchman for the rest of the season, starting with Sunday's home match against West Ham.
"I think everybody can pay their respect to him now about how great he was as a manager. It's perfect timing.
"I think it gives the fans (the chance) to pack the Emirates for the last few games of the season and have a right go.
"If fans do not turn up against West Ham and pack that place out, they need serious questions asked about them and are they real Arsenal fans or are they glory-hunters?"
Merson has also called for the Emirates Stadium to be renamed in Wenger's honour.
"They should drop the Emirates bit - they don't need the money - and name it the Arsene Wenger Stadium.
"That's his stadium. He built that. He made that stadium. Even if they called it the Emirates Arsene Wenger Stadium. He deserves to be on that."
'It shows the great dignity and class of the man'
Spain and Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas, who burst in to the Arsenal starting line-up under Arsene Wenger, posted on Instagram...
"Wow. I never expected that but it shows the great dignity and class of the man. I will never forget his guidance and support, his tutelage and mentorship.
"He had faith in me from day one and I owe him a lot, he was like a father figure to me who always pushed me to be the best. Arsene, you deserve all the respect and happiness in the world. #classact"
Ian Wright appeared to have been aware of the news before it was announced, tweeting a shocked face emoji around half an hour before the club's statement.
— Ian Wright (@IanWright0) April 20, 2018
Will it be Rodgers who replaces Wenger?
Celtic majority shareholder Dermot Desmond has admitted he would let manager Brendan Rodgers speak to Arsenal if the Premier League club approached the Northern Irishman...
"Absolutely. I don't think you can put handcuffs on anybody if they want to go to a club as good as Arsenal.
"It will be Brendan's decision and Brendan's decision only."
'He moved the goalposts for everyone else'
Southampton manager Mark Hughes believes it would be a "massive wrench" for Arsene Wenger to leave after so long in the post.
"When you have had longevity in the game like Arsene has, and I have been in the Premier League for a long time, our paths have crossed on numerous occasions, we had a few run-ins but other times we were very civil and respectful of each other's efforts.
"I had a good conversation with him two weeks ago, he looked very relaxed and chilled.
"He came with different ideas, different views on how the game should be played, he moved the goalposts for everyone else, he came in and had success and everyone else had to catch up."
'Fans are celebrating like they've won the lottery'
Former Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman, Arsene Wenger's No 1 for the first seven years of his reign, is not happy with how some Gunners fans are reacting...
"It's going to be good now, because there's going to be a chance he will get the send-off and the respect he deserves. The fans that are celebrating like they've won the lottery, it makes me a little bit angry if I'm honest. It's time to show respect and realise what he's done.
"For me, he is Arsenal, and it's right that he's decided to leave on his own terms.
"Now let's enjoy that. I hope all the fans that have stayed away now return because they've still got a chance of winning something this season. Get behind the team, get behind Arsenal, and show him the respect he deserves.
"He's a gentleman. It's brilliant to be in his company. He's a really, really nice guy - and a lot of people don't see that. People say he's stubborn and this and that, but that's not true. It might have been true as a manager, but as a man he's a true gentleman.
"When he came in he changed everything - the way we played, the diet... He revolutionised Arsenal. He was brilliant. For me, and especially for the back four - he added years to their careers."
Wenger's Arsenal reign in numbers
1996 - the year when a then-unheralded Wenger, who had been in charge at Monaco and Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight, took over at Highbury.
1228 - games at the helm, ahead of Sunday's Premier League fixture against West Ham.
704 - wins to date as Arsenal boss.
3 - Premier League title wins, the last during an unbeaten Invincibles campaign of 2003/2004.
1549 - goals scored in Premier League matches by Wenger's teams.
10 - major trophies won.
473 - Premier League victories.
7 - FA Cup triumphs, with three of those having come the last four seasons.
151 - Premier League losses.
21 - full seasons in charge.
49 - games unbeaten in the Premier League from May 2003 to October 2004.
Nearly 22 years in three minutes
How Twitter is reacting to Wenger leaving
Unsurprisingly, frequent Arsene Wenger critic Piers Morgan has tweeted with a certain amount of relish...
Fortunately, Gary Neville, the voice of reason, has said what many feel...
Arsene Wenger built the best teams that I played against in English Football .The 98 team was Amazing.The biggest compliment is that he played football that made us change the way we played against them. He now deserves the most incredible send off from all in the coming weeks.— Gary Neville (@GNev2) April 20, 2018
Arsenal legend David Seaman has called on Gunners fans to give Wenger the send-off he deserves...
Journalist and TV presenter Robert Peston is suffering from mixed emotions...
Such mixed feelings about Wenger resignation. I wanted him to go, but I miss him already. He was magnificent for us over many years, but it was time #Arsenal— Robert Peston (@Peston) April 20, 2018
Radio 1 DJ Greg James sees the funny side...
BUT WHO GETS THE COAT?! I WANT THE COAT. SHOTGUN THE COAT. pic.twitter.com/C4qJEbO8YG— Greg James (@gregjames) April 20, 2018
Former Arsenal captain Tony Adams posted on Instagram: "Thanks for everything Arsene. Move over Herbert, Arsene Wenger the greatest Arsenal Manager."
How fickle football can be
It was expected that many Arsenal fans would boycott the club's remaining home games as a way of voicing their unhappiness at Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal sure to be packed out for remaining games now— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) April 20, 2018
One word: longevity
823 - Arsene Wenger has managed more Premier League games than any other manager (823) and only Sir Alex Ferguson has won more games (528) than Wenger (473). Longevity. pic.twitter.com/ktdsaZPb1y— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 20, 2018
Klopp hails Wenger
Other Premier League manages are being asked for their thoughts on Arsene Wenger after today's momentous announcement. Here's what Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says:
"He is an influence in football. A fantastic career, outstanding personality. A big player in the business."
How has it come to this?
Arsene Wenger has won three Premier League titles during his spell of over 21 years at the helm, the last of which came as a result of the unbeaten 'Invincibles' season in 2003-04.
No-one has won more FA Cups than the former Monaco boss, who was a shock appointment back in 1996.
Protests against his reign picked up last season as the Gunners finished outside of the top four for the first time in a full campaign under Wenger's control.
But despite the growing negativity, Wenger signed a new two-year deal last summer with the mandate of sustaining a title challenge.
That failed miserably and, at the time of the announcement, Arsenal sit sixth in the table and 33 points adrift of newly-crowned champions Manchester City.
Set your alarms for 5pm!
Arsenal are holding a media conference with chief executive Ivan Gazidis at 5pm at the Emirates Stadium.
Winterburn says 'time is right'
Former Arsenal defender Nigel Winterburn believes the decision is the right one:
"I think it's run its natural course. Arsene Wenger has been absolutely amazing for Arsenal Football Club.
"It probably feels to me like it is the right time. When Arsene Wenger does step down, I think he will be remembered very, very fondly. We talk about the modern era, George Graham started it and Arsene Wenger's taken it to the next level.
"When he leaves the football club, I think people will look back and really appreciate what Arsene Wenger has done."
Who will replace him?
Arsene Wenger will lead the team to the end of the season and the club say they will 'make an appointment as soon as possible'.
Our Arsenal man - Jeremy Wilson - says these are the leading candidates: Leonardo Jardim, Mikel Arteta, Joachim Low, Brendan Rodgers, Max Allegri and Luis Enrique.
'Arsene has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful'
Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke has issued the following statement:
"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 Arsène 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.
"Arsène has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude. Three Premier League titles, including an entire season unbeaten, seven FA Cup triumphs and 20 successive years in the Champions League is an exceptional record. He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.
"We have high ambitions to build on Arsène's remarkable tenure and to honour his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game.
"We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal's history and one of the greats of the game."
BREAKING NEWS: Arsene Wenger leaving Arsenal
Arsene Wenger has announced he is to step down as manager of Arsenal at the end of the season.
"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.
"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.
"To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club.
"My love and support for ever."