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Arsene Wenger 'leaving Arsenal at the end of the season'. And let's hope so too.

Wenger 'leaving Arsenal at the end of the season'. And let's hope so too.

23/09/2016 at 09:08

A newspaper claims that Arsene Wenger's retirement date has been set - and that the Frenchman will leave Arsenal next summer.

And while the Star has, shall we say, a low strike-rate with the accuracy of its stories, this time everyone even vaguely interested in Arsenal will hope it's true.

"Wenger is prepared to leave Arsenal at the end of this season, Starsport understands," the piece runs.

"The Frenchman’s contract is up at the end of campaign, and he could walk away regardless of how the Gunners get on."

Wenger will at least get a free bus pass when he retires

Wenger will at least get a free bus pass when he retiresAFP

Woods adds that Bournemouth's Eddie Howe is the club's top choice to replace Wenger, the 38-year-old having been widely praised for getting Bournemouth into the top flight and keeping them there last season in relative comfort.

The fact that Howe was overlooked for the England job apparently left the Arsenal board delighted, adds the report:

"They [Arsenal's board] were relieved England did not pick the talented young coach as Roy Hodgson’s successor, instead giving the job to the far more experienced Sam Allardyce."

Woods bolsters his story by repeating comments made by Arsenal chief Ivan Gazidis about Wenger, and the struggles of the club last season, in a recent boardroom meeting between club officials and the supporters' group. "Last season was a disappointment he said and is not what we are aiming for,” Gazidis said, going on to confirm that there is a succession plan in place.

The choice of Howe as a successor is written in chalk rather than stone, however. But regardless of who comes next, Wenger's time at Arsenal seems up no matter what happens.

WILL HE GO? SHOULD HE GO?

It's exactly 20 years ago since Arsene Wenger took over at the Gunners and the Star's report is obviously timed accordingly, cashing in on the acres of coverage which Wenger's tenure will earn over the next few days.

And that coverage is well-earned: bringing with him a string of what were then hailed as "continental" innovations - in tactics, training and standards of professionalism - that transformed how football is approached in England.

At first, his success was incredible with a string of triumphant seasons, and Wenger's men hit their peak with the famous "Invincibles" squad which won the Premier League without losing a single match in 2004.

Wenger with a trophy in 1998

DIMINISHING RETURNS

Since then, however, the law of diminishing returns has bitten - and hard. Other clubs caught up with Arsenal's innovations, and also out-spent the notoriously parsimonious Wenger.

That stinginess undid the Frenchman's regime. Match-winning players such as Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas had little choice but to walk off into the sunset to earn the medals that their talent and dedication merited.

Consistent second and third-place finishes were Arsenal's glass-ceiling, and in all honesty the back-to-back FA Cup triumphs which saw the club break a decade-long trophy drought are a bad joke: the reputation of the tournament has never been lower, as evidenced in glaringly horrendous fashion just a few months ago as Louis van Gaal was fired by Manchester United despite winning at Wembley.

Some Arsenal fans made their feelings on Arsene Wenger clear during the FA Cup win over Hull City

NO-WIN SCENARIO FOR WENGER

For Arsenal fans, and for Wenger himself, the sad thing is that his legacy will be tarnished by the manner in which he fell asleep at the wheel as his magnificent side was caught and then surpassed - all of which happened before he managed to claim the Champions League trophy that would have been his crowning glory.

So the big question isn't whether he will go. Despite the Star's liberal use of hyperbole to bolster thin stories, Wenger will walk away next summer.

Why? Because there is no scenario in which he should stay. He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

if this season is a huge success, he will doubtless have the courage to walk away while at the top of the game - just as Sir Alex Ferguson did.

And if this season is anything other than a huge success for Arsenal, the club will no longer tolerate being second best.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes people will focus on the positives on the north London club's FA Cup triumph
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