The Gunners manager is quitting the club he joined in 1996 after winning three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups.
FOLLOW all the latest developments on Arsene Wenger's departure on talkSPORT
Wilshere tweeted: "To the man who gave me my chance as a 16-year-old, and showed unbelievable faith and commitment towards me.
"Always a gentleman, like a father through the tough times in my career.
"He always believed in me when most people didn't. Thank you for everything boss!"
The news that the 68-year-old was finally quitting broke just minutes after he told shocked Arsenal players at training this morning.
Wenger revolutionised English football after landing from Japan two decades ago to replace Bruce Rioch and will go down as a Premier League great.
His side's incredible undefeated season in 2003-04 will remain one of the most incredible achievements in Premier League history and came as the Gunners broke Manchester United's dominance in the late 90s and early 2000s.
His rivalries with Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho became must-watch moments and fixtures against United were some of the best matches ever seen in England.
Announcing teh news today, Wenger said: "After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season.
"I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years.
Latest on Wenger
- Arsene Wenger announced he is leaving Arsenal on Friday morning.
- Wenger said in a statement: “I feel it is the right time for me to step down.”
- The Frenchman kept his departure secret from his players until minutes before the shock announcement.
- Brendan Rodgers, Patrick Vieira and Thomas Tuchel have all been tipped to take over.
- Arsenal could name a new boss TONIGHT as Ivan Gazidis calls a press conference.
- Piers Morgan and Wenger Out brigade reacted with glee on social media as football paid tribute to the out-bound Gunners boss.
- SunSport looks at his best and worst signings including Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira… and Franny Jeffers.
- Martin Lipton: Wenger was ahead of his time and exactly what Arsenal and the Premier League needed… he deserves to leave on his terms.
"I managed the club with full commitment and integrity.
"I want to thank the staff, the players, the directors and the fans who make this club so special.
"I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high.
"To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club.
"My love and support for ever."
HIRE AND FIRE Arsenal board split on Wenger replacement with ex-Barcelona manager Luis Enrique in running alongside Patrick Vieira
SunSport understands he told the players just minutes before the announcement was made on the website and social media.
Wenger has never managed to win the biggest prize in European football and came closest in 2006 when the Gunners were beaten by Barcelona in the Champions League final.
After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season
LATEST: Next Arsenal manager odds – provided by Sun Bets
- Patrick Vieira – 3/1
- Thomas Tuchel – 5/1
- Joachim Loew – 5/1
- Carlo Ancelotti – 5/1
- Allegri – 8/1
- Steve Bould – 20/1
- Luis Enrique – 14/1
- Diego Simeone – 14/1
- Thierry Henry – 16/1
- Mikel Arteta – 16/1
- Brendan Rodgers – 16/1
- Antonio Conte – 22/1
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While he has been applauded for bringing the club through their transition from Highbury to the 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium, the anti-Wenger sentiment has grown at the club, while they have fallen behind their Premier League rivals.
Tottenham are destined to finish in the Champions League places this season, while Chelsea have won the league five times since the Gunners last did.
Owner Stan Kroenke said: "This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport.
"One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsene has brought to the club on and off the pitch. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.
"Arsene has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude.
"Three Premier League titles, including an entire season unbeaten, seven FA Cup triumphs and 20 successive years in the Champions League is an exceptional record.
"He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.
"We have high ambitions to build on Arsene’s remarkable tenure and to honour his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game.
"We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal’s history and one of the greats of the game."
Ferguson also paid tribute to the former Nancy, Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight gaffer.
The Manchester United icon said: "I am really happy for Arsene Wenger. I have great respect for him and for the job he has done at Arsenal.
"It is great testament to his talent, professionalism and determination that he has been able to dedicate 22 years of his life to a job that he loves.
"In an era where football managers sometimes only last one or two seasons, it shows what an achievement it is to serve that length of time at a club the size of Arsenal.
"I am pleased that he has announced he is leaving at this stage of the season, as he can now have the send-off that he truly deserves.
"He is, without doubt, one of the greatest Premier League managers and I am proud to have been a rival, a colleague and a friend to such a great man."
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