Arsne Wenger took the seismic decision to walk away from Arsenal on his own terms because he was mindful of the very real threat that he would be sacked at the end of the season
Arsne Wenger took the seismic decision to walk away from Arsenal on his own terms because he was mindful of the very real threat that he would be sacked at the end of the season.
The clubs majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, and other directors had grown increasingly concerned by the teams dismal Premier League performance and the huge number of fans who have chosen to stay away from home matches in recent weeks.
The Guardian understands the club began a drive to cold call Red Members of their supporter scheme on Wednesday to offer season tickets for 2018-19 in the face of record numbers of non-renewals. Red Members are below Gold and Silver members in terms of priority.
Wenger had routinely said he would fulfil the remaining year on his contract but the wagons have circled for some time. The chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, has made a series of appointments on the technical side as part of his catalyst for change agenda most notably those of the head of football relations, Ral Sanlleh, and the head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat.
The impression has been that Gazidis was putting a succession plan into place while Wenger was in the building.
Wenger has felt the pressure from board level, although there was a sense of shock among the squad when he informed them before a community event and a training session on Friday morning that he would step down from what he has referred to as his lifes work at the end of the season.
Wenger walked into the dressing room at London Colney and he announced: I have some bad news. He talked about how he had enjoyed his long service at the club and now was the time to go out on a high by winning the Europa League. Arsenal face Atltico Madrid in the semi-final the first leg is in London next Thursday and, were Wenger to win a first European trophy, it would return the club to next seasons Champions League.
None of the players said anything in the immediate aftermath of Wengers speech. There was merely stunned silence. Per Mertesacker, the squads most vocal member, then stood up to deliver a rallying cry, urging them to do Wenger proud in the seasons final matches.
The hope at the club is that the timing of the announcement will galvanise players and fans for the Europa League their shot at saving the season. It also offers Wenger the chance to enjoy a measure of goodwill from supporters over his final weeks, even those who have hounded him relentlessly. The transformation of the mood from angst to an outpouring of affection was a feature of an extraordinary day. Arsenal face West Ham United at the Emirates on Sunday.