Arsene Wenger’s former captain Tony Adams has called the outgoing Arsenal manager their “greatest” boss after the Frenchman announced he is to leave his post next month.
Wenger is leaving the Gunners after a near 22-year spell, during which time he won 10 major trophies, including three Premier League titles, one of which was achieved by the 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’, who went through an entire campaign unbeaten.
Adams was Wenger’s captain when they won the double in 1997-98 and 2001-02, and he wrote on Instagram: “Thanks for everything Arsene. Move over Herbert (Chapman), Arsene Wenger the greatest Arsenal Manager.”
Current club skipper Per Mertesacker was the first of Wenger’s squad to offer an in-depth reaction and he admitted the news caught the players by surprise.
“We have just been informed basically, it is quite emotional,” the German defender told arsenal.com.f
“Obviously he has been at the club for such a long time, he has been so supportive to me.”
Mertesacker added: “He’s always managed to get the team around himself to be successful. The memories of winning titles with him and bringing joy to so many people – something he has done for years – is a heck of an achievement.”
David Seaman, the Frenchman’s first-choice goalkeeper for the two doubles, said he was pleased Wenger was departing on his own terms rather than being axed or forced out by fans disappointed with their recent domestic struggles.
“It’s going to be good now, because there’s going to be a chance he will get the send-off and the respect he deserves,” Seaman told talkSPORT.
“The fans that are celebrating like they’ve won the lottery, it makes me a little bit angry if I’m honest. It’s time to show respect and realise what he’s done.
“For me, he is Arsenal, and it’s right that he’s decided to leave on his own terms.“
Wenger was known for his policy of promoting youth and he gave current Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas his senior debut at 16.
Writing in an Instagram post, Fabregas said: “He had faith in me from day one and I owe him a lot, he was like a father figure to me who always pushed me to be the best. Arsene, you deserve all the respect and happiness in the world. #classact”.
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville also lavished praise on Wenger, arguing his Arsenal sides were the toughest he had ever faced.
Neville wrote on his Twitter account: “Arsene Wenger built the best teams that I played against in English Football. The 98 team was Amazing.The biggest compliment is that he played football that made us change the way we played against them. He now deserves the most incredible send off from all in the coming weeks.”
The news stunned several social-media users as former Arsenal defender Sol Campbell simply tweeted “Wow!” and celebrity Gunners fan Piers Morgan, a long-time critic of the current boss, just added “BREAKING: Wenger out.”
Meanwhile, Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker hailed Wenger’s longevity when he wrote: “Arsene Wenger is to leave @Arsenal at the end of the season. He has given much of his life to Arsenal. He has brought much success to the club. He has given much to the game of football in our country. Merci et bonne chance, Monsieur Wenger. #Wenger”
Wenger was seen as a trail-blazer for foreign managers in England and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp revealed he always looked up to the long-serving Arsenal boss.
“Maybe in the last few months not everyone was happy, but he was the dominating guy in the mid-90s/2000s,” Klopp said.
“He was always a big role model and it will be different without him.”