Arsenal dropped a bombshell on Twitter on Friday morning.
An article headlined "Merci, Arsene" hinted as to its contents and it confirmed that manager Arsene Wenger will step down at the end of the 2017-18 season after nearly 22 years in charge at the club:
Comments from the Frenchman included gratitude to the club and a message for Gunners fans: "To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club. My love and support for ever."
The 68-year-old will leave his post with a year still remaining on his contract, and, as a result, the announcement came as a shock to many:
Charles Watts @charles_watts
Arsene Wenger, the man who gave us two doubles, the Invincibles, winning the league at WHL, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires. This is 100 per cent the right decision for him and for Arsenal, but it still leaves me feeling a bit numb. Thank you Arsene. https://t.co/CI2XuFc7pf
The Wall Street Journal's Joshua Robinson shed some light on how Wenger came to the decision:
He will depart the Emirates Stadium as a three-time Premier League champion and seven-time FA Cup winner.
Wenger also still has the chance to bow out on a high by claiming his first-ever European trophy, as Arsenal are still in the UEFA Europa League and face Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals.
Despite Wenger's Arsenal having struggled in the second half of his tenure—they last won the Premier League in 2004—the reaction to the announcement was largely positive.
Many, including Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News and the Guardian's Sachin Nakrani, acknowledged the huge impact he had on the English game from his appointment in 1996:
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville outlined his experience of playing against Wenger's best teams:
Others expressed their admiration for a man who has been part of the Premier League furniture for over two decades:
Duncan Alexander of Opta provided some statistical context for Wenger's time at Arsenal:
As noted by BBC Sport's Simon Stone, there is recent precedent for a departure of this magnitude given it was only five years ago that Sir Alex Ferguson called it a day at Manchester United:
Simon Stone @sistoney67
As was the case at Man Utd in 2013, decisions now have to be considered @Arsenal that have never been thought about before. Club not at top of game like Utd, so significant difference re potential improvement but no guarantees a new name on the manager's door will be a better one
Unsurprisingly, suggestions of all kinds flooded in for who should fill Wenger's shoes in the Arsenal dugout:
William Hill Betting @WilliamHill
Next Arsenal Manager: 7/2 Low 7/2 Tuchel 7/1 Ancelotti 8/1 Rodgers 10 Arteta 10 Jardim 16 Simeone 16 Allegri 20 Vieira 20 Enrique 20 Howe 20 Sampaoli 20 Martinez 20 Bergkamp 25 Henry 25 Bould 33 Mancini 33 Benitez 33 Blanc 40 Deschamps 50 Mourinho More > https://t.co/zxsSgVlutu https://t.co/M4OXkhKR5I
Wenger has five Premier League games left to oversee as Arsenal manager, the first of which is a home clash against West Ham United on Sunday.
His relationship with many Gunners fans has soured in recent years as Arsenal have slipped down the domestic and European pecking order.
But he will surely receive a rapturous and grateful farewell from the Emirates faithful as he calls time on a remarkable tenure in north London.