Arsene Wenger has been the most important person in Premier League history

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Gazidis gave few clues about the profile of manager the club would be looking for but suggested they would have to be adept at bringing through young players and adhere to Arsenal's values.

During his tenure at the Gunners, Wenger claimed three EPL titles and seven FA Cup trophies, managed in more than 1200 games and took Arsenal to a Champions League final.

It appeared that Arsene Wenger had earned that rare right only afforded to Alex Ferguson in England - being able to leave on his own terms.

Wenger's reign saw Arsenal win the double during his first season in charge in 1997/1998, before achieving the same again in 2002.

"I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years", he said. That day could come sooner rather than later, with Wenger, 68, announcing on Friday that he's stepping down at the end of the season.

"His achievements are extraordinary and many of them will not be repeated". While Wenger himself admits the Premier League is a huge step up, there is a significant American and/or MLS flavor in the Arsenal board room.

Explaining the decision to make the news public on Friday, he said: "We wanted to have the opportunity for the Arsenal family to come together to express our affection and gratitude to this man".

Van Persie wrote: "I will always see you as my footballing father where under your guidance I had the chance to grow as a man and a player, i'm forever thankful for that". "Once you announce you are leaving people are going to talk about your legacy and his legacy is untouchable". The latest individual to pay glowing tributes to Wenger is one of his greatest rivals in the game, Alex Ferguson.

Current United boss Jose Mourinho, who has had numerous run-ins with Wenger, once calling him " a specialist in failure".

"He has kept the club relatively successful, but the one thing the fans wanted him to do was to get this Premier League title challenge and that hasn't happened".

"There is one person who you can ask that question, though, it's (Arsenal Chief Executive) Ivan Gazidis".

Then in the 57th minute, Arsenal forced a turnover in midfield, and Sylvain Wiltord broke forward with pace before playing a pass to Freddie Ljungberg who glided into the penalty area and forced a save from goalkeeper Fabien Barthez.

Appointed on 1 October 1996, Wenger is the Premier League's current longest-serving manager and has taken charge of a record 823 games. In the case of Arsenal, if this bond was forged any time during the glory years between 1998 and 2006, a bond with Wenger was pretty much part of the deal.

His coaching staff were also informed of the decision in advance, although club staff working at the Emirates Stadium rather than the training ground discovered the news at the same time as everyone else.

"It's been so sad to see the slow, inexorable demise of our once great titan", he said.

Arsenal even sold a host of star players such as Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie.

"Incredibly, he achieved it with Arsenal's "Invincibles" season".