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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hinted it was not his choice to leave the club at the end of the season.
The Gunners announced on Friday that this campaign would be his last at the Emirates Stadium, ending almost 22 years in charge of the club.
However, speaking at his press conference on Wednesday, Wenger suggested the timing of his exit was out of his hands, per James Olley of the Evening Standard:
James Olley @JamesOlley
Wenger effectively admits he was forced out of Arsenal. Asked why he is going now when he has a contract to 2019, he says: “The timing was not really my decision. For the rest, I have spoken about it already.”
The veteran coach signed a contract last summer that was set to keep him at the club until 2019, although with the Gunners down in sixth in the Premier League, it appears the decision was made that some fresh leadership was needed
As relayed by Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph, it appears as though Wenger may have been forced out against his will:
Paul Hayward @_PaulHayward
This is it. Wenger didn’t want to go. Messy, but it was never likely to be clean. Missed his chance to go out on a sedan chair after last year’s FA Cup. https://t.co/AaBtVRPXyw
While the Frenchman is set to leave Arsenal at the end of the current campaign with his legacy secured as the team’s greatest manager, things have turned sour for him in north London in recent years.
Three FA Cup wins in the space of the previous four seasons haven’t been enough to mask some of the failings on the field, with the Gunners falling behind so many sides in pursuit of Premier League titles.
In the UEFA Champions League, the team consistently toiled in the knockout stages; unless they win the UEFA Europa League—they meet Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final on Thursday—they won’t qualify for the competition again next season either.
For many Arsenal supporters, the decision for Wenger to leave will represent a welcome change after so long. However, the prospect of another coach overseeing this team is a peculiar one for so many who frequent the Emirates Stadium and football fans around the globe.
As noted by James Benge of the Evening Standard, Wenger wouldn’t be drawn on who he would like to replace him:
James Benge @jamesbenge
Wenger says he has a high opinion of Luis Enrique but doesn’t want to influence the job of the next manager.
Cross also noted the club are unsure whether to go for a big-name coach or a younger manager who will fit into the club’s restructured recruitment setup. Names like Leonardo Jardim, Joachim Low, Brendan Rodgers, Mikel Arteta and Julian Nagelsmann are all said to be being considered.
Taking over from Wenger will be a challenge for any coach in the world, as Arsenal have been moulded by his methods and influence for so long. It appears as though it was the club, and not the legendary manager, that decided the time was right to move away from those ways.