If you hear Arsenal Football Club mentioned, I’d hazard a guess that the next thing you’d think would be Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman, now 68 years old, has become synonymous with both Arsenal and the Premier League but announced last week that this will be his last year at the helm.
In a season where Frank de Boer was afforded just 450 minutes of game time as manager of Crystal Palace, it is hard to underestimate the significance of Arsene Wenger’s nearly 22 years at Arsenal. While Wenger has been subject of much criticism in recent memory, with his side currently sat in sixth position and without a point away from home in 2018, there is no denying the legacy that the manager will leave behind.
He is perhaps best known managing “The Invincibles” and leading Arsenal to become the only ever Premier League team to go a whole season undefeated in 2003-04, the victory being one of three titles and seven FA Cups, which Wenger won throughout his reign.
It is not only Wenger’s longevity and trophy collection which has won him praise, but also his innovative take to football. While the addition of broccoli to his team’s meal plans may not seem like the most revolutionary decisions or have been particularly popular with his players, Wenger has been credited by many as having changed the way footballers approach the game. Gone were the days of fish and chips for dinner and five pints the night before a match and in was a stricter, European take on not just football. Wenger also brought with him an exciting, attacking brand of possession football, which was adored by many and has been attempted to recreate countless times.
On top of this, Wenger has become well-known for his thrifty spending in the transfer market, with impressive signings like Patrice Vieira costing him a measly £ 3.5 million. What’s more, Wenger’s longer term vision also meant he had faith in the youth, evident by the likes of Jack Wilshere and more recently, Hector Bellerin coming through the academy.
It is with a heavy heart that Wenger departs from the Emirates, having devoted such a large proportion of not only his career, but his life to the club. He told the Arsenal website “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”.
His departure leaves the question open as to who his successor will be. Many names have been thrown into the hat to replace Wenger, former Arsenal players Mikel Arteta and Patrick Vieira, as well as former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, to name a few.
In terms of this season, Wenger will be determined to end on a high and with little to nothing left to play for in the Premier League, Arsenal and their departing manager will be putting all their eggs into their Europa League basket.
They’ll face a tough task though, with a semi-final match-up against Diego Simeone’s Athletico Madrid standing in their way of European glory and a route through to the Champions League.