News of Arsene Wenger’s decision to step down as manager of Arsenal at season’s end made headlines all over the world.
Reports out of England, France, America, Nigeria, New Zealand, and many other countries, flooded both news stands and social media on Friday. Publications from the Wall Street Journal to local papers have covered the story.
The relatively shocking announcement will bring an end to a particularly special era for the Gunners. Simply put, Wenger was a revolutionary manager. He was a once-in-a-lifetime type manager.
Not only did Wenger help change the English game, but his success as Arsenal manager is something that many did not see coming. Despite the infamous “Arsene Who?” headline following the Frenchman’s arrival in the fall of 1996, Wenger won the Premier League title and collected his first of seven FA Cups in his first full season at the helm.
Arsenal would complete another “domestic double” four years later during the 2001/02 campaign.
Wenger’s third, and eventual final, Premier League title came in 2004. That Arsenal team will go down in history books as one of the best teams in English football history. “The Invincibles,” as they are known as, were the first English top flight club in over 100 years to finish without a defeat during league play.
Three Premier League titles, seven FA Cups, seven Community Shields, and a 57% total win rate for the Frenchman during his tenure with the Gunners has securely placed Wenger at the top of the totem pole amongst Arsenal managers.
This is no slight against other previous managers with the Gunners. Herbert Chapman, George Graham, and Tom Whittaker (among others) were all fantastic bosses during their specific times with the club; however, Wenger’s success and legacy outshines the others.
More than just trophies
The Frenchman’s player transfers during his 21+ years with the club is something to marvel at. It seems incredibly fitting that Wenger began his Arsenal reign with the transfer of Nicolas Anelka and ended it with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Wenger implemented a wonderfully alluring style of play at Arsenal, which saw many magnificent goals from attack.
Not only did he bring in those two talented forwards, but Wenger is also credited with the signatures of
- Thierry Henry
- Patrick Vieira (sort of)
- Cesc Fabregas
- Robin van Persie
- Freddie Ljungberg
- Robert Pires
- Sol Campbell
- Gilberto Silva
- Jens Lehmann
- Aaron Ramsey
- Laurent Koscielny
- Per Mertesacker
- Santi Cazorla
- Mesut Özil
- Alexandre Lacazette
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan
It is also worth noting how Wenger was able to maneuver despite a lack of funds during the completion of Emirates Stadium.
During a time in which the Arsenal board asked him to finish in a lucrative Champions League qualifying position three of the five years that the state-of-the-art stadium was being built, Wenger managed a top four spot in all five of the seasons.
The feat was not easy though, as the club’s move to the £390 million stadium coincided with the departure of important players such as Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Sol Campbell, Lauren, and Ashley Cole.
Now that a decision has been made to step away at the end of the season, Arsenal must be careful to chose their next manager.
Replacing a club legend is a difficult task
Manchester United fans will surely understand this. The Red Devils did not finish above fourth in the four seasons following the departure of the venerable Sir Alex Ferguson. Unlike United’s selection of David Moyes with the help of Ferguson, it does not appear that Wenger will be involved in the appointing of his successor.
Following a flood of support and positive messages on social media by current and former Arsenal players, sports writers, and managers, the Gunners will look to come together for the final month of the season.
While their domestic campaign is looking a bit bleak, the team’s Europa League run is still in full effect. A potential European trophy to add to his copious cabinet would truly be the perfect ride into the sunset for Wenger.
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