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21st Apr 2018

Arsene Wenger’s reason not to quit Arsenal last year might surprise you

Arsene Wenger announced on Friday that he will leave Arsenal at the end of the season.

After almost 22 years with the Gunners, Wenger has decided to walk away and Arsenal are now looking for a new manager for the first time since 1996. Reports have suggested that Wenger was left with no choice but to quit the club, despite having a year remaining on his contract. There was a possibility that the board may have fired Wenger in the summer, and the Frenchman has decided to leave with dignity rather than face the sack.

Unless they can win the Europa League, Arsenal will miss out on a place in the Champions League again next season. They are 14 points behind fourth-place Tottenham, 33 points behind champions Manchester City and supporters’ frustration has turned to apathy this season. Last season, when Arsenal lost 10-2 on aggregate to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, the fans were furious. This year, as the team flounder in the league, yet to earn a point away from home in 2018, many seem indifferent and have just decided not to attend home games.

At least by announcing his departure with a month of the season to go, Wenger will receive the send-off his achievements in north London warrant. The 68-year-old had the opportunity to end his time with the Gunners on a high last year, when Arsenal beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final, but he opted to sign a new two-year deal.

At the time, this appeared to be because Wenger couldn’t bring himself to walk away from the club. However, it may not have been that simple. According to BBC reporter David Ornstein, the Frenchman was ready to leave last summer, but he felt that the club wasn’t prepared for his departure and decided to stay.

“I was told recently that Wenger was as stubborn, determined and energetic as ever and if he was to leave he would need to be dragged out kicking and screaming,” Ornstein writes for BBC Sport.

“However, it is my understanding Wenger was actually closer to walking away towards the end of last season than we knew at the time. Confidants had urged him to leave on a high after the FA Cup win against Chelsea in May. At that time, Arsenal did not have a firm plan in place to succeed him. They were not particularly well set up to start a recruitment process. Wenger knew as much and a part of him sensed – rightly or wrongly – that going then could have left them in the lurch, that he had something of an obligation to carry on and have one last crack a leading this team to success.”

Ornstein also writes that Wenger “knew his time was up” this season, and the club are reportedly closer to identifying Wenger’s successor than they were this time last year.