“One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsène has brought to the club on and off the pitch,” he said in the statement. “His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.
Wenger moved to the club after coaching stints in France — the club nodded to his French heritage in its statement, which was headlined, “Merci Arsène” — and Japan. He instituted something of a revolution in the club’s playing style and approach to training, a fact that was recognized far beyond the club’s North London home.
“Arsene Wenger built the best teams that I played against in English Football,” Phil Neville, a defender who played for England and Manchester United, one of Arsenal’s top rivals, said on Twitter. “The 98 team was Amazing.”
“The biggest compliment is that he played football that made us change the way we played against them,” he continued. “He now deserves the most incredible send off from all in the coming weeks.”
Wenger was the coach of the “Invincibles,” the Arsenal team that finished the 2003-4 season undefeated. During the early and mid-2000s, arguably the peak of Wenger’s tenure, the club was lauded for its fast-paced and attractive style.
From 2002 to 2005 alone, Wenger led them to triumph at the F.A. Cup, the main domestic knockout tournament, three times, as well as to two Premier League titles. Arsenal also made it to the final of the elite Champions League tournament in 2006, before being defeated by Barcelona.
But as other teams — notably Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal’s fierce northern London rival Tottenham Hotspur — gained stature, Arsenal’s slowly began to diminish.
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Wenger is, by far, the longest-serving current manager in the Premier League. He developed an enormous reservoir of good will thanks to his success, but many fans grew frustrated over what they saw as a variety of faults: The club never won the Champions League, it became less likely to win the Premier League every year, and he seemed reluctant to keep pace with big-spending clubs.
That polarized fans and created a somewhat-poisonous atmosphere around the club, and Wenger, who often cut a forlorn and tense figure on the sidelines, seemed to acknowledge as much in making a plea for unity in his statement.
“I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high,” Wenger said in the statement. “To all the Arsenal lovers, take care of the values of the club.”
The club, which has four games to play this season, said that Wenger would remain in place for them. The club has also reached the semifinals of the Europa League, an intra-European competition.
Wenger’s time in charge at Arsenal coincided with an explosion of interest in top-flight English soccer. In the two decades since, the Premier League has become, by some measures, the most commercially successful soccer league in the world.
Its clubs are now owned by billionaires and conglomerates that hail from as far afield as Russia, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. Indeed, Arsenal is owned by an American whose company also controls American sports teams including the Denver Nuggets of the N.B.A. and the Los Angeles Rams of the N.F.L.
The transformation has been so stark that, paradoxically, a manager with Wenger’s pre-Arsenal résumé would have almost no chance of being hired by a major club in today’s Premier League.
In February 2017, Ian Wright, a former Arsenal striker, offered a glimpse of the toll that Arsenal’s struggles were taking on Wenger.
Wright recalled an address that Wenger gave at the Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal plays, in which he said that he was “coming to the end” of his career.
“He was fine when we were talking about how the kids were doing, stuff like that,” Wright told the BBC. “But when we started talking football, it was as though he had to take a deep breath.”