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I fell in love with playing for Wenger - Winterburn

Arsene Wenger was always set to be a success at Arsenal and the players loved playing for him, according to former defender Nigel Winterburn.

The 68-year-old announced on Friday that he will depart the Gunners at the end of the season, having won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups in his time with the London club.

And Winterburn, who played for Arsenal between 1987 and 2000, was not surprised by Wenger's achievements in England.

"When you start to train with a manager and see the way he sets his team out, the way he wants to play – I fell in love with playing for him because of that freedom he gave you," he told Sky Sports News.

"There was never going to be any question over whether Arsene Wenger would be a success for Arsenal Football Club."

However, Winterburn concedes that, given Arsenal's relative struggles in recent years, it is time for Wenger to move on.

"It doesn't surprise me, if I'm honest," he said. "I've done a lot of work around the club in the last four years and there is a different feel.

"You look at the stadium for the last four league games and the attendances are down. It's run its course - Arsene Wenger has been amazing for Arsenal Football Club but not getting another challenge for the Premier League title has been a big frustration for him and the supporters.

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"That proves to me that it is the right time. And when he steps down, I think Arsene will be remembered very fondly for this football club.

"I know there's a lot of animosity around, some people wanted him to stand and others said it was time to go. You can leave it until the end of the season and people then would have started speculating."

Patrick Vieira, a former team-mate of Winterburn at Arsenal, is one of the favourites to come in as Wenger's replacement, and it is an appointment the ex-Wimbledon man would back that appointment.

"I think it's going to be very, very difficult [to replace Wenger]," he said. "I don't think it's a given that the new manager will be successful.

"If it is Patrick Vieira then I would be delighted. He's in America at the moment [with New York City FC], learning the management side of the game.

"It's important to have ex-players around the coaching staff at the football club. Let's just wait and see. I think he will be one of 10 or 12 names thrown around before we know who that manager is."