(Bloomberg) -- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will leave the soccer club he joined in 1996 at the end of this season.
“After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down,” the 68-year-old said in a statement.
Frenchman Wenger faced repeated calls to stand down from fan groups over a perceived failure to challenge for the English Premier League title. The club last won the competition in 2004, as the only team in the competition’s history to survive an entire season without losing a game. Arsenal won England’s FA Cup seven times under Wenger.
Wenger built a reputation for promoting a more continental European style of soccer, favoring short passes and keeping possession of the ball for longer periods of time. He also preferred finding unknown players over spending large sums on transfers.
“Arsene Wenger built the best teams that I played against in English Football,” former Manchester United captain and eight-time Premier League winner, Gary Neville, said on Twitter. “He played football that made us change the way we played against them.”
The team currently sits sixth in the Premier League, which would see them miss out on the lucrative UEFA Champions League for a second straight season, unless they win the Europa League tournament. They face Spain’s Atletico Madrid in the semi-final next week.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers and former captain Patrick Vieira, current head coach of New York City FC, are among bookmakers’ favorites to replace Wenger, according to SkyBet. Arsenal will not be making any further comment on a replacement coach until an appointment is made.
Wenger’s “longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched,” majority owner Stan Kroenke said.
Arsenal Holdings Plc has a thinly traded stock on a London exchange run by NEX Group Plc. It has a market capitalization of about 2.15 billion pounds ($3.02 billion). The company had full year adjusted revenue of 424 million pounds in 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
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