Arsenal Women: Joe Montemurro to depart as head coach at end of season

Jordan Nobbs and Joe Montemurro
Joe Montemurro (right) helped Arsenal win the Women's Super League in his second season in charge

Arsenal head coach Joe Montemurro is to leave the Women's Super League club at the end of the season.

The 51-year-old is to take "a professional break" in order to spend more time with his family.

"This has been the hardest professional decision of my life," he said. "I absolutely love this job and club."

After taking over at Arsenal in 2017, Australian Montemurro helped lead the Gunners to their first WSL title in seven years in 2019.

During his three and a half years in charge, they have also reached four domestic cup finals, including back-to-back Continental League Cup wins, and a Champions League quarter-final.

Arsenal are currently fourth in the WSL table and on a four-game winning run as they bid to secure a Champions League spot for next season.

Montemurro revealed he had come to his decision in February, but only informed the players for the first time at training on Wednesday.

"I was a mess," he said. "I was waffling on, I didn't even know what I was saying to be honest, it was really hard, really, really hard."

Joe Montemurro lifts the Women's Super League trophy in 2019
Joe Montemurro guided Arsenal to the Women's Super League title in 2019

The former Melbourne City coach was "scared he would not be allowed back in the club" when he informed Gunners chief executive Vinai Venkatesham and head of women's football Clare Wheatley of his intention to return to Australia.

"They've been absolutely amazing," he said. "I can sit here and safely say that I will be forever part of the Arsenal family and I was one of the lucky ones that got to work here and give my all and meet some amazing people.

"It's been an amazing journey but I think now is the right time, it just seems like the right time and feels like the right time.

"I think I'm leaving the place in a better shape for it to go to the next level and they will find someone fantastic who'll take it to the next level."

Montemurro will leave Arsenal on 31 May and the search for his successor is under way.

Praise for his tenure at the Gunners came from fellow WSL manager and former Arsenal player Emma Hayes, now in charge of champions Chelsea.

"What a great guy," Hayes said. "I think he cared deeply for his players. We had some good battles, I enjoyed them.

"I think it's always difficult being the manager of Arsenal, following Vic Akers, for anyone. I wish him the best because he's a super coach and super guy and I think he will be missed at Arsenal."

Arsenal travel to WSL strugglers Bristol City on Sunday, sitting three points behind third-placed Manchester United with a game in hand.