In this 2017 file photo, Arsenal team manager Arsene Wenger celebrates with the trophy after winning the English FA Cup final soccer match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley stadium in London. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo
Wenger out, they begged. Wenger out, they insisted. Wenger out, they demanded.

And so, after a glorious era during which a philosophical Frenchman waltzed into the English game and left an indelible mark on the most popular league in the world, the Premiership will say au revoir to the professor.

What a journey it has been, too.

For all his faults, the principled Monsieur Wenger has brought an immense amount of style and sophistication to the previously stuffy confines of North London.

Under his unerring gaze, Arsenal replaced the “1-0” to the Gooners into an irresistible force, and Highbury into a cathedral of sophisticated gospel.

Those were the glory days, when visiting The Arsenal was one of the most intimidating trips on the fixture list.

Under Wenger, at the intimate, apologetically old-school Highbury, the Gunners produced games and moments that will live long in the memory  even in those of opposition fans who suffered heavily. Wenger, despite the modern wave of pessimism against him, was a gift to football as a whole.

His methods  especially his considerable eye for detail  turned good players into legends. Ask Thierry Henry for a footballing eulogy on Wenger, and you may get yourself a teary Henry.

Wenger took him from the fringes of Italian football, and turned him into the epitome of élan, the toast of London and well beyond.

Wenger’s impact is that significantly embedded into the fibre of so many fine players.

There is a statue of Henry, in his magnificent prime at the Emirates Stadium. You can be certain that, much like his great adversary at Manchester United, Wenger will also be afforded the ultimate respect of standing in bronzed magnificence outside the place he called his office for so long.

Naturally, his fondest memories were at Highbury, the library that was turned into an opera house, so in tune was that great side of the early 2000s.

At the peak of their powers, when they did what even the current Manchester City juggernaut couldn’t do, and went through the entire league season undefeated.

That is a landmark achievement, and time has added significant layers of gloss to it.

It may never even be touched, given the demands of the modern game.

Wenger has done infinitely more than just lead ‘The Invincibles’, of course.

He has shifted the mindset of the conservative, industrial even, English game. He created a system that championed the playmakers, the artists like Begkamp, Henry, Fabregas and Pires.

He has married that to honest English and significant lashings of African endeavour, and turned Arsenal into a thing of rare beauty. There was steel to go with the style, and for that you have to doff your French cap at the master.

His greatest days coincided with Sir Alex Ferguson, and even the Scot will be amongst the first to acknowledge Wenger’s peerless contribution to the game.

Wenger made Ferguson a better man; their greatest wars elevated the English game into a drama that was consumed by billions - the original Game of Thrones.

The game will miss him, even if his exit was one that saw him on the wane.

And yet, his side have a chance to send him off into the sun with a smile. They are three games away from scooping the Europa League, and allowing him to secure the continental success that eluded him for much of his reign.

Wenger out, they cried. And so, head held high, he will leave in the summer. But, forever, Wenger will be in the hearts of those that saw his body of work.

Au revoir, Monsieur.


Sunday Tribune

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