Arsene Wenger to leave Arsenal

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After almost 22 years in charge, Arsene Wenger has called time on his Arsenal reign.

[ MORE: WENGER’S DEPARTURE ]

Wenger, 68, announced on Friday that he will be leaving the Gunners at the end of the current 2017/18 campaign despite having one year remaining on his contract.

Here is the statement from Wenger in full which was posted on Arsenal’s website with the heading “Merci Arsene” taking center stage.

“After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season,” Wenger said. “I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years. I managed the club with full commitment and integrity. I want to thank the staff, the players, the Directors and the fans who make this club so special. I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high. To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club. My love and support for ever.”

The Frenchman is a man who revolutionized the Premier League when he arrived in 1996 and he will be remembered as a bastion of attractive, possession based soccer as his Arsenal team of the 2003/04 season, dubbed the “Invincibles,” will always be remembered for going through an entire PL season unbeaten en route to winning the title.

Wenger has won three Premier League titles, seven FA Cups and seven community shield trophies during his time in charge of Arsenal, as well as leading them to 20-straight seasons finishing in the top four of the Premier League and 19 qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.

That run ended last season as they finished in fifth and in the past few seasons there have been fan protests with “Wenger Out” or “Wenger In” dividing the fanbase.

However, Wenger’s tenure can end on a high in the Europa League as Arsenal face Atletico Madrid in the semifinals and he is essentially three wins away from returning Arsenal to the Champions League.

Wenger has so far managed Arsenal for 1,228 games with 704 wins in all competitions. His final game in charge will be the Europa League final in Lyon, if Arsenal get there. But his final Premier League game in charge of Arsenal will be away at Huddersfield Town on May 13.

The focus will now switch to who will take over from Wenger this summer with the likes of Diego Simeone, Carlo Ancelotti, Brendan Rodgers and Thomas Tuchel all linked with the job.

But in the more immediate future the final few weeks of the 2017/18 campaign in England will turn into an appreciation of Wenger and all he has achieved over the last two decades in charge of Arsenal.

Who are the favorites to take over at Arsenal?

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With Arsene Wenger announcing he will leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, the immediate focus switches to who will take charge of the Gunners beyond this season after almost 22 years of Wenger.

The bookmakers are having a field day slashing the odds of several managers previously linked with the job with nobody really knowing what direction Arsenal’s board will go with their next appointment.

Will they appoint an experienced manager? Or will it be a young coach with a fresh outlook a la Wenger back in 1996?

Here’s a look at the main contenders, according to Oddschecker.


Patrick Vieira (4/1) – Wenger spoke on Thursday about how Vieira has the potential to manage Arsenal but did mention now may be too early. The NYCFC manager has done a fine job in MLS but will Arsenal really hand the reins to their former captain and midfield general? Vieira’s appointment would be welcomed by fans who idolized him but maybe he is the man who should follow the man who replaces Wenger. That said, he is the early favorite to take charge of Arsenal.

Thomas Tuchel (5/1) – Out of work for 12 months, it was heavily reported that Tuchel had agreed to take charge of Arsenal a few months ago. The German coach did well at Borussia Dortmund as they won the German Cup and got the latter stages of the Champions League and he is known for giving youngsters a chance to shine. This would make a lot of sense given Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, his former players at Dortmund, arriving at Arsenal in January and the likes of Mesut Ozil around.

Joachim Loew (7/1) – Although the German national team manager has a contract through the 2020 European Championships, later this summer, after the 2018 World Cup, could be the time when Loew steps down from the German national team. He has built a World Cup-winning squad and may feel like he has done everything he can with Die Mannschaft. Loew hasn’t had experience of coaching a club on a day-to-day basis and that may be something which will concern Arsenal’s board.

Brendan Rodgers (7/1) – The odds have been slashed on Celtic’s manager taking charge of Arsenal. The former Liverpool manager (who came so close to winning the Premier League title in 2013/14) has certainly rebuilt his reputation at Celtic and we all know that Rodgers loves to play an attacking style. That fits in seamlessly with what Wenger has built at Arsenal, but would Rodgers’ appointment excite the Arsenal fans? Probably not. Also, with Rodgers known for his teams struggling defensively, there’s a sense that he will just be another Wenger and little progress will be made.

Massimiliano Allegri (10/1) – The Juventus manager is being linked with Chelsea and Arsenal this summer and it is easy to understand why. Allegri has led Juve to three-straight Italian doubles with a solid defensive approach, something Arsenal need more emphasis on if they’re going to make it back to the top four. Allegri has also reached the UEFA Champions League final in two of the three seasons. Seems like it would be a good appointment to improve Arsenal’s defensive unit and play.

Carlo Ancelotti (10/1) – The veteran Italian manager has won everything and he has won it everywhere but he usually takes over established teams with stars delivering. That’s not the case at Arsenal right now. Ancelotti has delivered success at AC Milan, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but he will have to be trusted with a lot of cash to rebuild this Arsenal squad. The former Chelsea manager certainly knows the Premier League well after winning the title and the FA Cup in 2010, so there are no problems there.

Ever the villain, Celtic’s Brown preens after Old Firm Derby

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Scott Brown is one of the top villains in the world of football.

From his hard-edged play to his sharp tongue — not to mention his famous celebration in front of El-Hadji Diouf — the longtime Celtic midfielder does not shy away from drama.

[ RECAP: Rangers 2-3 Celtic ]

Few moments carry more of that than those within an Old Firm Derby, and Celtic has not lost one outside of penalties in 12 outings.

That continued with an outstanding display on Sunday, with Brown assisting the second of Celtic’s two equalizers before the 10-man Bhoys won 3-2 at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow.

Brown then gleefully entertained microphones (from the BBC):

“We’ve come here four times and won four games, so we believe we can win here all the time now.

“They did a lot of talking beforehand – we stayed quiet. We usually do our talking on the park.”

Clearly cognizant that he was talking — there’s an adverb usually there — Brown had no problems antagonizing Rangers and his detractors. He even celebrated on the pitch sans shirt and avec sunglasses.

Manager Brendan Rodgers didn’t shy away from a confident reply to the win, either, saying:

“There was a lot of noise before the game, but that’s natural – they’ve been on a good run and at home, thinking they could get the victory. But I think the players today showed their quality and that real champion mentality.”

For Rangers there’s little comfort in knowing they are closing the gap on their rivals after a long drop out of the top flight and a quick battle back, but Sunday’s match was a thriller. One day, celebrations will be sweet on a day Glasgow turns blue.

LIVE, Europa League: Ostersunds v. Arsenal, Round of 32 begins

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The UEFA Europa League Round of 32 continues on Thursday with 16 second legs across Europe.

This may be Europe’s second-tier club competition but this is the stage when things get increasingly interesting as teams who dropped out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage arrive and everyone is eyeing that Champions League spot available to the winner of this competition.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ] 

Arsenal head to Ostersund, Sweden to face Ostersunds FK, a Swedish minnow who are managed by Englishman Graham Potter. The Swedish club have taken their nation by storm in recent years with their rise from the fourth-tier and they’ve already beat Hertha Berlin and drawn with Athletic Bilbao in the group stage, plus Galatasaray and PAOK in the qualifying rounds.

The Jamtkraft Arena will be bouncing in the first leg as they aim for another huge upset to continue their European fairytale, while Arsenal will now take this competition more seriously as they’ve fallen eight points off the top four in the Premier League table.

In other notable games, Celtic host Zenit St. Petersburg as Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Mancini lock horns on the sidelines, while Borussia Dortmund drop down to this competition and play one of the standout teams from the group stages in Atalanta from Serie A.

Napoli take on Red Bull Leipzig (two teams both ousted from the Champions League), Copenhagen host Atletico Madrid and Lyon clash with Villarreal in another three games which stick out on the schedule.

The full list of games are below, while you can click on the link above to follow the scores live and we will have analysis and reaction right here on Pro Soccer Talk.


Thursday’s Europa League Round of 32, first leg schedule
Red Star Belgrade 0-0 CSKA Moscow — Tuesday

11 a.m. ET
Astana vs. Sporting Lisbon

1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Arsenal
Borussia Dortmund vs. Atalanta
Real Sociedad vs. Red Bull Salzburg
Spartak Moscow vs. Athletic Bilbao
Marseille vs. Braga
Nice vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. AC Milan

3:05 p.m. ET
Napoli vs. RB Leipzig
Lyon vs. Villarreal
Celtic vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg
Partizan Belgrade vs. Viktoria Plzen
Copenhagen vs. Atletico Madrid
AEK Athens vs. Dynamo Kyiv
Steaua Bucuresti vs. Lazio

Rodgers: Point deserved for Celtic, Rangers in Old Firm stalemate

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Rangers came close, but the Glaswegian visitors at Celtic Park saw their record of winless performances in the Old Firm Derby extend to 11 in a scoreless draw on Saturday.

Scottish leaders Celtic paced the first half, while Rangers were thwarted by a pair of terrific Craig Gordon saves in the second frame of the match.

[ MORE: Mourinho hits out at City ]

Celtic keeps its 11-point edge on third-place Rangers, while Aberdeen can close to within six points of the leaders with a win on Saturday.

Here’s what Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers admitted after the home stalemate.

“The longer it goes on you give oxygen to the other team but like I say they had one or two chances second. One really good chance where Craig Gordon makes an unbelievable save so for us I’ve seen it over many years in these games that as the home team you can end up losing it 1-0 so for us to keep another clean sheet in our ninth game of the month and there’s probably a bit of tiredness in the performance as well then I can only give credit to the players. It was a brilliant atmosphere today and like I say, a point was probably deserved for both teams.”