EDDIE Howe is set to become the longest-serving active Premier League boss after Arsene Wenger announced he would depart Arsenal at the end of the season.

Wenger, who has managed the Gunners since September 1996, this morning revealed plans to exit Emirates Stadium.

And when the Frenchman departs, Howe will move to the summit of the top-flight rankings, as well as becoming the fifth longest-serving boss in the country.

The 40-year-old returned for a second spell at the helm of Cherries in October 2012.

Aside from Wenger, only Exeter City's Paul Tisdale, Morecambe's Jim Bentley, Wycombe Wanderers' Gareth Ainsworth and AFC Wimbledon's Neal Ardley have been in their jobs longer than Howe.

Christchurch-based former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson spoke warmly of Wenger in an interview with BBC Radio 5 live.

Wilson, who made more than 300 appearances for the Gunners, said: “I’m in shock. I was there on the day he arrived and was still the goalkeeping coach then.

“He is without doubt, one of the three greatest men I’ve met in my life.

“I’m not just talking about how he changed the game in this country but outside as a human being through difficult times when I lost my daughter, Hannah. He was extraordinary.

“We used to go to Austria for pre-season and we’d finish a training session and get on the coach.

“Arsene would say, 'Bob, come and sit with me' and start talking about Hannah. And then he’d start talking about human spirit."

A tearful Wilson added: “Sorry, it’s emotional for me.”

During more than 21 and a half years in charge, Wenger steered Arsenal to three Premier League titles and seven FA Cup wins.

Carlo Ancelotti is the bookies' favourite to take over, with Thomas Tuchel, Massimiliano Allegri, Joachim Low, Patrick Vieira and Brendan Rodgers among those linked with the post.

Howe, who has been touted to succeed Wenger in the past by a string of high-profile figures including Wilson, is as short as 14/1 to replace the 68-year-old.

Speaking to the Arsenal website, 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. 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.”