Arsene Wenger to leave Arsenal at the end of the season

Arsene Wenger has announced he is to step down as manager of Arsenal at the end of the season.

The 68-year-old's position has come under intense scrutiny over the past 18 months due to repeated failings in the Premier League and Champions League.

The Frenchman has lifted the FA Cup in three of the last four seasons but that has not been enough to appease some supporters and Wenger, whose side are set to compete against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-finals next week, confirmed his decision to step down this morning.

"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," Arsene Wenger said in a statement.

"I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years.

"I managed the club with full commitment and integrity.

"I want to thank the staff, the players, the directors and the fans who make this club so special.

"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."

Wenger has won three Premier League titles during his spell of over 21 years at the helm, the last of which came as a result of the unbeaten 'Invincibles' season in 2003/04.

No-one has won more FA Cups than the former Monaco boss, who was a shock appointment back in 1996.

Protests against his reign picked up last season as the Gunners finished outside of the top four for the first time in a full campaign under Wenger's control.

But despite the growing negativity, Wenger signed a new two-year deal last summer with the mandate of sustaining a title challenge.

That failed miserably and, at the time of the announcement, Arsenal sit sixth in the table and 33 points adrift of newly crowned champions Manchester City.

The Europa League offers a chance of a final piece of silverware for Wenger, with majority shareholder Stan Kroenke hailing the "unparalleled class" of the outgoing boss.

"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," he stated.

"His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.

"Arsene has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him.

"Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude.

"Three Premier League titles, including an entire season unbeaten, seven FA Cup triumphs and 20 successive years in the Champions League is an exceptional record.

"He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.

"We have high ambitions to build on Arsene's remarkable tenure and to honour his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game.

"We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal's history and one of the greats of the game."

- PA

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