London - Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker expressed his shock and sadness after manager Arsene Wenger announced on Friday he will bring his 22-year reign in charge to a close at the end of the season.
The 68-year-old arrived at the London club in 1996 a relative unknown but leaves widely hailed as the greatest manager in Arsenal's history after three Premier League titles and a record-breaking seven FA Cup triumphs.
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"We have just been informed basically. It is quite emotional," Mertesacker told the Arsenal website.
"Obviously he has been at the club for such a long time, he has been so supportive to me. One major reason why I'm here is because of him. It's been emotional and there will be time to digest it but it is a sad feeling right now."
Despite his history of success, Wenger has come under increasing pressure to move on after failing to win the Premier League for the past 14 years and missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time in 20 years last season.
Arsenal are on course for their lowest ever Premier League finish under Wenger this season as they lie sixth with just five games remaining.
"There have been a lot of challenges, a lot of highs and lows," added Mertesacker.
"But how he went through tough times has taught me a lot about his character and about how to trust people and get the people in the right places to be successful."