Senderos: Wenger is Mr Arsenal – but he might be relieved to be going

Philippe Senderos has paid tribute to his old Arsenal "mentor" Arsene Wenger as he prepares to leave the club at the end of the season.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger   -  Getty Images

Former Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos believes Arsene Wenger might have a sense of relief to be leaving the club at the end of the season.

The 68-year-old will step down as manager at the end of the month after nearly 22 years in charge of the club, during which he won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups.

Wenger has been heavily criticised during the latter part of his Gunners career, though, with his side having last won the domestic title in 2004 and having struggled to make an impact in European competition.

Last season's failure to finish in the top four prompted more fans to call for Wenger's departure and, with Arsenal having lost 2-1 to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-finals, his hopes of finishing his last season with a trophy and a return to the Champions League have gone.

Senderos – who spent seven years on Arsenal's books after being signed by Wenger in 2003 – says his old manager will go down as a "legend" at Emirates Stadium, but suggested he could feel happy to be moving on.

Asked about his reaction to Wenger's exit, he told Omnisport, via Houston Dynamo: "Sad, obviously, because he's such a legend for the club, but maybe for him some relief because I think he's had an amazing career at Arsenal.

"Considering what he's done for the club, it's an amazing career that he's had, and hopefully many more years to come somewhere else."

Senderos joined Arsenal from Servette as a 17-year-old, having rejected interest from Real Madrid, and watched on while recovering from injury as Wenger's 'Invincibles' became the first team to win the Premier League without losing a match.

Although injuries continued to hamper his time in north London, the defender, who moved to the Dynamo in MLS last year, will always be thankful for Wenger's guidance.

"He's a great mentor. He's a great teacher of the game and I learned a lot under him. He gave me my chance in the Premier League," he said. "I owe Arsene Wenger a lot, I will always be grateful for the chance he gave me. He made me fulfil my dream."

Speculation continues over who will take over from Wenger. Former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique, Celtic's Brendan Rodgers and Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri are among the favourites, alongside more surprising options, including Zeljko Buvac and Rui Faria, respective assistants to Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.

Senderos, though, agrees with Gunners chief executive Ivan Gazidis, who stated last month that "replacing" Wenger is impossible.

"I don't think you can replace Arsene at Arsenal," said Senderos. "You go in a different direction. It's a saying I've heard in the press, I think Mr [Ivan] Gazidis said it, and that's totally true.

"Arsene Wenger has done so much in the game for England and for the whole football club at Arsenal that you can't replace him. He's unique. I owe him a lot and a lot of players owe him a lot. I'm sure he will be remembered as Mr Arsenal."

Wenger is not expected to retire and has already been linked with the head coach role at Paris Saint-Germain, with Unai Emery to leave at the end of the season.

But Senderos, who had hoped to see Arsenal farewell Wenger in the Europa League final before Thursday's second-leg loss to Atletico, says the focus must simply be on giving him a send-off he deserves.

"Honestly, at the moment, I think people want to give him the right send-off. I think he deserves that, he deserves to finish on a high," he added.

"The players and everyone in the press should really look back at what he's done in the past for Arsenal and really give him the best send-off possible. The players should do their best, like they always do, and try to finish the season on a high."

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