Published on 20/04/2018 4:30:49 PM | Source: IANS

Coach Wenger to leave Arsenal at season-end after 22 years

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 Arsenal's head coach Arsene Wenger announced on Friday that he is to leave at the end of the current football season, marking an end of an era at the north London club where the Frenchman has been in charge for 22 years.

In a statement, the coach said he had decided to step down following careful consideration and discussions with the club, reports Efe.

"I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years," said the 68-year-old in a statement.

"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."

With Wenger at the helm since 1996, the club, popularly known as the Gunners, have gone on to win three league titles and seven FA Cups, including two doubles, but the Champions League has remained painfully out of reach; Arsenal lost 1-2 to Barcelona in the 2006 final.

He presided over what was arguably Arsenal's most legendary team, the so-called Invincibles, who, led by fellow Frenchmen Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, famously won the 2003-04 top-flight title without losing a single match.

That success perhaps dogged the north London side, however.

Aside from securing the FA Cup title the following year, Arsenal's track record entered a period of drought until the 2013/14 season, when they narrowly beat Hull City 3-2 in the FA Cup final.

Although Wenger's side, now featuring the likes of Mesut Ozil, went on to win the FA Cup for three consecutive years, the team's failure to challenge for the league title and its apparent inability to make it past the Champions League pre-quarterfinals stirred disgruntle fans.

Calls for the head coach to step aside grew over recent seasons. But his parting comes as a major change for Arsenal's image.

Majority owner Stan Kroenke said: "This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport."

The club said it would find a replacement for Wenger as soon as possible.