EXCLUSIVE: Inside story of hours before Arsene Wenger announcement - and how it left players shocked
Arsenal boss had been discussing the possibility of him leaving and the club’s future for several weeks - before finally coming to an agreement
Per Mertesacker gave an emotional rallying cry to urge Arsenal’s players to ensure Arsene Wenger leaves on a high as the inside story of his departure was revealed.
Wenger delivered his bombshell that he is leaving at the end of the season at the club’s London Colney training base just before 10am.The Arsenal manager had been discussing the possibility of him leaving and the club’s future for several weeks before finally coming to an agreement.
Incredibly, they managed to keep it under wraps until this morning when the staff and the players were gathered together to be told the news.
Wenger gathered the staff together - including training ground, coaches and medical personnel - and told them the news.
Then he told the players in the dressing room, addressing them very briefly and was quite abrupt. It was met with stony silence as players could not quite believe it.
Wenger told them: “We’ve got a season to finish, trophy to win and I’m going to go and do this press conference.”
But it was at that point that Mertesacker stood up, issued a rallying cry to the players and told them: “Let’s do Wenger proud.”
Arsenal managed to keep the announcement under wraps even though there was a club media day at the training ground.
Mertesacker later gave an interview in which he said: “It was emotional [when Wenger made his speech]. It’s a sad feeling right now.
He is the major figure of the club for 20 years.
“The final games under him will be emotional but we will give our all. We want to make things happen, to win every single game, to fight for this guy because he has brought so much to the club.
“It’s an honour to be involved in his last games and I say on behalf of the whole team, we will fight for every single day to make this season a success story in terms of lifting a title.
"We want to give Arsene Wenger a farewell story that no-one will forget.”
The idea behind the announcement was to galvanise the whole club - from the players, to the fans and the staff to make sure the season ends well.It is understood that Arsenal, with majority shareholder Stan Kroenke, have been discussing the future for the past few weeks with Wenger amid the growing concern about stay away fans.
Last week was the deadline for club level season ticket sales and it is believed they are down on previous years along with season tickets as there had been an eight year waiting list and suddenly fans got calls asking if they would be interested.
That, as much anything else, set off alarm bells that supporters were staying away and the situation needed to be addressed.After lengthy discussions, they finally signed off an agreement with Wenger after a board meeting on Thursday. Wenger was understood to have been in good spirits at the training ground yesterday and telling those close to him he had no intention of resigning.
Another reason for making the announcement now apart from trying to galvanise the players into winning the Europa League is that they are about to start making approaches for other managers.Arsenal have not decided on one overall favourite and will speak to up four candidates on a shortlist likely to come from Joachim Loew, Luis Enrique, Max Allegri, Mikel Arteta and Brendan Rodgers.
There are concerns that Patrick Vieira lacks experience but they were acutely aware that word would get out if they start sounding out candidates and this now allows them to make formal approaches.
Wenger has been widely tipped for Paris Saint Germain but it appears that Thomas Tuchel - a major contender previously for Arsenal - will get that job.
But sources close to Wenger insist that the Frenchman has had major job offers this season and wants to carry on working.https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/exclusive-inside-story-hours-before-12399674