By Charles Ofoji
Arsene Wenger on Friday announced that he will bring his 22-year managerial charge at Arsenal to a close at the end of the season.
The Frenchman said, “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.”
This draws the curtain to a phenomenal story in the history of European football.
The 68-year-old Frenchman won three Premier League titles, leading the only side (Invincibles) to go a full league season in 2003-04 undefeated.
He also guided the Gunners to seven FA Cup triumphs.
But Wenger will be leaving without been able to prove the point he always wanted to – that big names don’t play football.
He was renowned for discovering precocious talents and guiding them to translate their potentials at the highest level. However that philosophy crumbled when big money made landfall in the Premier League.
Despite the fact that his opponents bought and bought, Mr. Wenger simply refused to spend – most times to the chagrin of Arsenal fans.
Though his policy meant more profit for the shareholders and it ensured that Arsenal books were in good shape.
Those who are close to the Frenchman told CHECKPOINTCHARLEY that he always wanted to prove that you can win trophies without spending big money.
That dream will no longer be realized. Also not realized during his illustrious career at Arsenal was his dream of capping his successes at the club with a Champions League glory.
It is about 14 years Arsenal last won the league and Wenger had been under enormous pressure to say goodbye.
Many fans had not only stayed away from matches, but also stopped following.
In Nigeria, for example, where Gunners had at one time more fans than any other club, most fans had shifted their love and loyalty to other rival clubs in the Premiership.
Arsenal’s champagne football they fell in love with, was no longer efficient. They got disenchanted.
Arsenal are now on the brink of missing out on Champions League for the second consecutive season. The only chance they have to grab a Champions League ticket for next season is to win the Europa League, where they are paired against Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals.
In announcing his departure, Wenger added, “I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high.”
Wenger wanted to say goodbye on a high. He wanted to departed, leaving the club with a league trophy or champions league title to cheer about. That could be why he stayed on, despite poor results. Unfortunately that wish would no longer be realized.
But Arsenal will forever be grateful to him for his achievements while in charge.
Arsenal’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke paid tribute him, describing him as 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,” Kroenke said.
“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.”