Arsene Wenger bid farewell to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday before insisting his replacement as Arsenal manager will take over a highly-underrated squad.
The 68-year-old will leave the club at the end of the season, bringing down the curtain on a reign lasting almost 22 years.
His final home game in charge saw the Gunners thrash Burnley 5-0 as a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang brace and goals from Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac and Alex Iwobi set up a fitting goodbye to their manager.
The man who won the league at White Hart Lane. The man who won the league at Old Trafford. The man who gave us a double Double. The man who went 49 @premierleague games unbeaten. The man with more FA Cups than anyone else. The man who gave us Wengerball. The boss. #MerciArsÃ¨ne 🔴 pic.twitter.com/qu6afX3lfZ— Arsenal (@Arsenal) May 6, 2018
Wenger, whose final season will end without silverware and with the lowest Premier League finish of his tenure, was presented with Arsenal’s golden ‘Invincibles’ trophy from their unbeaten 2003/04 title-winning season.
Speaking after the usual lap of honour which he completed with his players, the Frenchman would again not be drawn on his replacement but said the team at his disposal will be good enough to challenge for honours – provided there are some key additions.
“I think it is better I don’t speak publicly about the next manager because I’m not involved in the story,” he said.
“I do not want to put any pressure on the club to choose this guy or this guy and give already a handicap to the guy who comes in because he has been chosen or it wasn’t my decision – I am nothing to do with that.
“I just think he inherits a team that is much better than people think it is. I’m convinced, you can see the togetherness of this team is special and with the right additions this team will challenge next year.”
Wenger conceded it was a “very sad” experience to wave goodbye to a stadium he played such a key part in being built – with the club relocating from Highbury in 2006.
“It was as well a very sad day because for me I came here to make the first photos then the lorries came in to deposit the rubbish,” he said of the initial development of a waste disposal plant.
“This stadium I have seen worked on from every single part, from the press conference (room) to the technical areas, of course it is part of myself.
“But as well it is a day where people behind me can work in good conditions and I am quite happy for that.”
While Premier League and Champions League failures have seen Wenger’s position questioned by some fans in recent seasons, the Arsenal supporters came together to give him a rousing send-off.
“It means that even if you are not always happy, they still respect me and wanted to show me that at least they think I gave my total commitment to do well,” Wenger said of the reception.
“That is of course how I see it and how I take it, they know that my commitment was genuine, total and with complete integrity so I take it as a big complement.”
Sean Dyche confirms an injury to Ashley Barnes' shoulder / collar bone. Club is awaiting further information on the severity.— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) May 6, 2018
Burnley boss Sean Dyche called outgoing Gunners boss Wenger “a legend” and felt his team’s performance in north London was adversely affected by having their European spot already secured.
“I think it was a mixture of us having nothing to play for after the news yesterday and that edge that you need to really take on a game is vital anyway but it’s definitely vital when a team turns up like that,” he added.
“They had something to play for which is the legend that is Arsene Wenger, rightly so they turned up, they gave a performance, they all looked at it, eyes were alive to give a performance.
“He’s probably enjoyed it and probably a bit frustrated, thinking: ‘That would have been nice a bit more often’.
“We played our part, unfortunately, in the story people probably thought was meant to finish like and it did.”