Monday 23 September 2019

Arsenal fans unite to bid a poignant farewell to Arsene Wenger after 22 years

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger takes his tie off to hand to a young fan
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger takes his tie off to hand to a young fan

Arsenal's tributes to outgoing manager Arsene Wenger began on the approach to the Emirates Stadium as a temporary banner thanked the Frenchman for his service as well as showing all of the silverware delivered throughout his reign.

Wenger, 68, announced last month he will step down as Gunners' boss at the end of the season after nearly 22 years in charge.

The visit of Burnley on Sunday will be his last home game at the helm and the club are determined to send him out with a bang - despite a disappointing season.

A large banner reading "Merci Arsene" adorned the outside of the stadium, while all matchday staff were sporting the same free t-shirts given to all supporters inside the stadium.

The official matchday programme is a tribute to Wenger, while the Frenchman is also subject of an additional magazine chronicling his years in charge.

The club plan for Wenger to be saluted after the final whistle of the Burnley clash, a match that takes on extra significance as victory for the visitors would see them pull level with sixth-placed Arsenal on 57 points.

Wenger's last-ever Arsenal programme notes kicked off with the manager talking about the painful Europa League semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid on Thursday night.

He went on to say that his final home game would be "dominated by sadness" but thanked fans, players and backroom staff alike before closing with the message: "Thank you very much for all your support down the years.

"Continue to stand behind and support the club that is so special to all of us. No matter what happens in the future, keep faith in what the club is doing.

"Like you, I will continue to support Arsenal for the rest of my life."

Wenger revealed in his television interview before kick-off that Mesut Ozil was sidelined with a back injury that could yet keep the Germany international out for the remainder of the season.

Arsenal's players all warmed up wearing the same "Merci Arsene" tribute t-shirts which were also given to members of the media situated in the press box.

A banner carrying the same message was unfurled as the two teams emerged from the tunnel, with Wenger coming out after the players to receive a guard of honour.

The first "there's only one Arsene Wenger" chants followed as he made his way along the line before shaking hands with Burnley boss Sean Dyche and waving to the crowd.

Arsene Wenger signed off from the Emirates Stadium in style as Arsenal thrashed Burnley 5-0 to guarantee a sixth-place finish in this season's Premier League.

In Wenger's final home match as Arsenal boss, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang book-ended the scoring, with Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac and Alex Iwobi also finding the back of the net.

The win means the Clarets can no longer overtake the Gunners but any lingering hopes of Wenger's side overtaking fifth-spotted Chelsea were extinguished by the Blues' 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.

The Arsenal boss was presented with the golden Premier League trophy that the club was awarded in recognition of their Invincibles campaign in 2003/04.

Welcomed back on to the pitch by rapturous chants of 'there's only one Arsene Wenger', the Frenchman addressed the crowd: "Thank you for having me for such a long time. I know that's not easy!

"Above all I am like you: I am an Arsenal fan. That means this is more than just watching football, it's a way of life. It is caring about the beautiful game, about the values that we cherish.

"I would like to thank everybody at the club who makes this club so special. I would invite you to really push to support the players and the staff who will remain behind me.

"For me these football players have a special quality, not only on the pitch but off the pitch. Please follow this team and support them next season because they deserve it.

"I would like to finish by saying I will miss you. Thank you all for being such an important part of my life. I hope to see you soon. Well done. Bye bye."

PA Media

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