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Arsene Wenger to leave club at end of season

Arsene Wenger is to leave Arsenal at the end of the season, ending a near 22-year reign at the club.

The Frenchman departs a year before his latest contract was due to expire.

The Gunners are sixth in the league and set to miss out on a top-four spot for the second straight season, with their hopes of reaching the Champions League resting on winning the Europa League.

Wenger, 68, won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups, including the Double in 1998 and 2002.

“I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years,” said Wenger. “I managed the club with full commitment and integrity.

“To all the Arsenal lovers, take care of the values of the club.

Arsenal majority shareholder Stan Kroenke described Friday’s announcement as “one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport”.

He added: “One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsene 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.”

Appointed on 1 October 1996, he is the Premier League’s current longest-serving manager and has taken charge of a record 823 games.

But some fans have turned on the Frenchman over the past two seasons as a result of their league performances.

Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Newcastle was their 11th in the league this season, equalling their worst tally in a campaign under Wenger.

They are 33 points behind leaders Manchester City, who have 87 points, and the same number away from bottom side West Brom, who have 21.

Arsenal finished outside the top four last term for the first time since Wenger arrived at the club, and are now 14 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, with five matches remaining.

They face Spanish side Atletico Madrid, who are second in La Liga, in the Europa League semi-finals, with the first leg on Thursday.