Arsene Wenger: Timing of Arsenal departure 'not really my decision'
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger said the timing of his Arsenal departure "was not really my decision," though he later moved to clarify his comments, saying he approved of the club's announcement.
Wenger announced last Friday that he will end his reign as Arsenal manager after his 22nd season in charge but has so far refused to reveal his full reasons for stepping down.
Asked again during his news conference on Wednesday on why he is stepping down now -- despite his contract running until 2019 -- Wenger replied: "The timing was not really my decision. And for the rest I've spoken about it already."
The statement was interpreted as an indication that Wenger had been forced out, but Arsenal issued another statement from the Frenchman on the club's Twitter account hours later, insisting the manger was on board with the decision.
"After reaching agreement about my departure, I was happy for the club to decide when to announce," the statement said ."I wish to make it clear the timing of the announcement was right."
Wenger said after Sunday's win over West Ham that the "hurtful" divisions among fans about his future had contributed to his decision.
He also said on Wednesday he will not entertain any new job offers until his work with Arsenal is over, but made it clear that he has no intention to retire.
"Honestly, I don't know what I will do," Wenger said ahead of the first leg of the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid. "Will I take a little rest? I will continue to work, that is for sure. My pride has always been to give my best to where I'm employed until the last day of my contract.
"At the moment I'm just focused on that. At the moment, I'm not ready to commit to anything else than to give my best for Arsenal football club."
Asked if he had any second thoughts about his announcement, Wenger said: "Look, you're never sure you do the right thing, but life is interesting because you have to deal with different kinds of situations.
"Until now, I had a life that was full of different experiences. Some were very difficult to deal with, but I always did it. That's another one certainly I will face one day."
Wenger still has the opportunity to go out on a high by winning his first European trophy, if Arsenal can get past Atletico to reach the final in Lyon. But he admitted that the end of his reign could see an "anti-climax" if the Gunners fall short of that goal.
"Yeah of course, but that's part of it. It will not take away from the fact that people will realise what I said many times: that to qualify for [the Champions League] 20 consecutive years is not as easy as it looked at one stage.
"It would really feel like an anti-climax of course. That's why we want to give our absolute all to have a chance of going to the final," Wenger said.
"Is there a perfect goodbye? I don't know. I just want to do as well as I can because this team has quality. I think this group of players deserves something special. I want to do it for them, to achieve something with them because I feel they have a special mental quality.
"My biggest satisfaction would be to be successful together with the group of players that I have. I've seen them behave the whole season and they deserve it."
Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck said the players are also intent on giving the manager a perfect farewell.
"Going into a semifinal in a European competition, you don't need any extra incentive to win the game." he said. "I wanted to win the game before for the manager announcing he would be leaving, and I want to win it after.
"With the lads, everyone's focused on winning the tie but obviously at the end of the competition, there would be that icing on the cake to see the manager lift the trophy."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.