Arsenal players, legends, executives, opponents react to Arsene Wenger's resignation

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Arsene Wenger mentored Jack Wilshere when the midfielder broke into the Arsenal team as a teenager. (Getty)
Arsene Wenger mentored Jack Wilshere when the midfielder broke into the Arsenal team as a teenager. (Getty)

Over the past 18 months, the question had become not if, but how. How would the greatest managerial run in Arsenal history come to an end? How would Arsene Wenger break up with the only club he has known in the 21st century? How would Arsenal move on from the man with whom its success had become synonymous?

As it turns out, few, if any, had the correct answer. Or so it seems. Wenger reportedly called his players together Friday morning to break the news: the 2017-18 campaign, his 22nd at Arsenal, will be his last. He will be leaving at season’s end.

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The news did not come out of nowhere. Nonetheless, when Arsenal released its statement making the news public, it was shocking. Fans were taken aback. Players seemed to struggle to process Wenger’s impending departure.

“It’s been emotional and there will be time to digest it but it’s a sad feeling right now,” Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker said. “He’s the major figure for this club, more than 20 years, it’s been so impressive.”

Midfielder Jack Wilshere confirmed the surprising nature of the announcement. “We literally just found out an hour ago, Wilshere said Friday morning. “I’m sure when the dust settles, and we have a few days to think about it, we’ll start to reflect on it, but at the moment it’s a bit raw, it’s a bit sensitive.”

“We didn’t see it coming because … he had another year left on his contract,” Wilshere also said. “Ever since I’ve known about Arsenal, Arsene has been there.

“I’m sad. I’m a little bit disappointed that we couldn’t give him the season he wanted, but we’ve still got a chance to win something so he can leave on a high.”

Wilshere, along with other Arsenal players, followed up with reaction on social media:

Many of Wenger’s former players took to social media to pay tribute to Wenger as well:

Thierry Henry spoke to Sky Sports about Wenger. “He used to make you believe you were the best player in the world,” Henry said of his former manager. He then offered a reminder of Arsenal’s Europa League semifinal tie with Atletico Madrid, which kicks off in six days. “Let’s not get lost in celebrating the end of his era. The team has to win the Europa League, it would be an amazing achievement and Arsene has never won in Europe before, so it would be a great way to give him a good exit.

Opponents, former opponents and other English clubs chimed in as well. The most noteworthy of the bunch was Sir Alex Ferguson’s tribute.

“I am really happy for Arsene Wenger,” Ferguson said. “I have great respect for him and for the job he has done at Arsenal. It is great testament to his talent, professionalism and determination that he has been able to dedicate 22 years of his life to a job that he loves.

“In an era where football managers sometimes only last one or two seasons, it shows what an achievement it is to serve that length of time at a club the size of Arsenal.

“I am pleased that he has announced he is leaving at this stage of the season, as he can now have the send-off that he truly deserves. He is, without doubt, one of the greatest Premier League managers and I am proud to have been a rival, a colleague and a friend to such a great man.”

One of Sir Alex’s former players and his former club added to the overwhelming response:

“I always wish the best for my opponents,” Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said at his Friday news conference. “If [Arsene Wenger] looks forward to the next chapter of his career in his life, I’m really happy for him. I’m sure that we, as a club, will show Mr. Wenger the respect he deserves.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, speaking at his own Friday news conference, said of Wenger: “He was the dominating guy in mid-1990s, 2000s. It is different now because we have to challenge but in Germany he was a big role model.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was also asked about his outgoing Arsenal counterpart. “Arsene Wenger has all my respect,” he said. “The Premier League is the Premier League now because of Arsene Wenger and what he has done, his vision and respect for football. I wish him all the best in the future. Of course it was a pleasure to compete against him.”

Journalists who had covered Wenger for decades also reflected on Wenger’s 22 years at Arsenal. Henry Winter’s Twitter thread provided great perspective:

As for Arsenal’s reaction, majority owner Stan Kroenke released a statement alongside Wenger’s announcement:

“This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport. 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. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.

“Arsène 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 Arsène’s remarkable tenure and to honor 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.”

Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis addressed media Friday evening, several hours after the announcement, but declined to go into specifics on the terms of Wenger’s departure.

“This has been an emotional day for everyone connected with the football club,” Gazidis said. “There is an widespread affection from Arsenal fans and right across the sphere of football.

“Arsene changed the game. He set a totally new standard, a new ambition … to win while achieving perfection. To make art out of football.

“I spent an hour with Arsene this morning in the quiet after the announcement. … He loves the game and he loves this club. I’m not here today to discuss any private discussions.”

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

More on Wenger and Arsenal from Yahoo Sports:
Arsene Wenger will step down after 22 seasons as Arsenal manager
Gulino: Wenger’s legacy is now up to us to figure out
Who will succeed Wenger at Arsenal? Here are the top candidates

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