In Tuesday’s press conference, Arsene Wenger admitted the decision to step down was ‘not really my decision’, reports the Guardian. The 68-year-old has long stated he would never leave Arsenal in the middle of a contract, but he’s set to quit halfway through the two-year deal signed last summer.
It was suggested that his decision to step down was ‘jumping before he was pushed’ and Wenger’s latest quotes confirm that. He said: “The timing was not really my decision. For the rest, I have spoken about it already. I will continue to work, that’s for sure.”
The news has been treated like a revelation, however, rather than confirmation of something that was obvious based on the evidence. His exit was coming next year if not now, but it wasn’t his decision.
Arsenal appointed Raul Sanllehi as Head of Football Relations, Sven Mislintat as Head of Recruitment and Huss Fahmy as contracts negotiator to take power from the manager and leave him to the coaching.
Wenger extended his contract last summer until 2019, despite supporters and pundits suggesting he should consider stepping down, so it’s clear the French coach doesn’t view himself in the same negative light as many others. He believes he’s still good for Arsenal, so him tending his resignation goes against his character. The Gunners, however, made the decision for him.
Arsene Wenger’s managerial honours
Wenger has long stated his love for Arsenal and how he turned down approaches from other clubs to stay at the Emirates. He’s had the support of owner Stan Kroenke for a long time and has refuted suggestions of resigning in the past.
So, when the news initially broke that he was stepping down as manager, the timing hinted there were other factors at play. If he was allowed to stay on as manager, there’s little doubt Wenger would continue in the role. He’s been defiant in the face of intense criticism and has a good rapport with the squad. The Arsenal players still hold a lot of respect for his achievements in the game.
However, modern-day football at the top-level is largely a results business and the Gunners have had their fair share of poor ones. There’s no escaping that Arsenal are having their worst-ever Premier League campaign under Wenger – currently sixth in the division, 11 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and 33 behind champions Manchester City after 34 games.
Wenger’s men haven’t come close to a title challenge this season, their defence of the FA Cup saw them eliminated by Nottingham Forest in the third round in January and they lost the League Cup final to Manchester City a month later. The Europa League may be their only saving grace, as they’re unlikely to seal Champions League football next season via the Premier League.
The challenge now for Arsenal is to find Wenger’s successor. The Gunners reportedly haven’t identified their own target, nor has the long-serving manager groomed a potential replacement.