Arsene Wenger’s decision to step down as Arsenal manager after 22 years in charge marks the end of an era, but also a huge opportunity for the Gunners to reestablish themselves among the elite of English and European football.
Tributes poured in from players past and present on Friday, as well as Wenger’s adversaries over the past two decades, such as Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, for his longevity and the revolution in English football he helped inspire.
However, there is no hiding the fact the Frenchman has bowed out now due to increasing calls for him to go from frustrated fans as Arsenal slipped further behind their Premier League rivals in recent seasons.
Arsenal haven’t won the league since Wenger’s crowing achievement in leading “The Invincibles” to an unbeaten league season in 2003/04.
Last season was the first time in 20 years the club didn’t qualify for the Champions League, but they haven’t got beyond the last 16 in that competition since 2010.
Languishing in sixth, Arsenal are also on course for their worst-ever league finish under Wenger this season with any hope of Champions League qualification dependent on winning the Europa League.
The club’s Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis made a long and heartfelt homage to Wenger himself when addressing the media on Friday, but dodged the question several times when quizzed over whether Wenger had walked on his own terms before he was pushed by the board.
And Gazidis recognised a decision had to be reached before the season’s end to give Arsenal a head start of finding Wenger’s successor.
“It’s going to be a condensed summer with a World Cup in the middle and a shortened transfer window, so I think for all of us having that clarity sooner is better,” he said.