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Sunday 4 December 2016

Southampton boss Claude Puel relishing reunion with mentor Arsene Wenger

Published 09/09/2016 | 13:56

Claude Puel, pictured, regards as Arsene Wenger as a big influence on his career
Claude Puel, pictured, regards as Arsene Wenger as a big influence on his career

Southampton manager Claude Puel says it will be "a pleasure" to go up against Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger, who he credits with shaping his career.

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The 54-year-old Frenchman was managed by the Gunners boss for seven years at Monaco and since moving into management has been described as Wenger's protege.

Puel became a manager in 1999 at Monaco but Saturday's Premier League game at the Emirates Stadium will be the first time he has faced Wenger in the opposition dugout since he phoned him asking for advice before accepting the Southampton job in June.

Speaking about his fellow Frenchman, Puel said: "Before signing for Southampton I spoke with him about the possibilities to coach in England.

"He said to me it would be a very good challenge to coach in England in the greatest championship in the world.

"It was important to sign for Southampton and to play against these managers."

He added: " Arsene Wenger was my trainer during seven years at Monaco. It (is) a pleasure to see him on the other bench.

"We didn't get the possibilities in the past to play against each other (as managers) in the Champions League for example.

"He played an important role at the beginning of my career.

"He was an example for me with his personality, his character and his qualities as a manager."

Over the international break Saints announced that summer signing Jeremy Pied needed an operation on a knee ligament injury and Puel has confirmed he will be out for between six and nine months.

The defender joined Southampton in August for his third spell with Puel, who has also coached him at Nice and Lyon, but suffered the injury during training last month.

Puel said: "(It is a) big injury, a blow for him and the team.

"He will be important for the squad but that's life and a career of a player. Perhaps he comes back in six months to nine months. We don't know.

"Hopefully he can come back to help us in difficult games."

Ryan Bertrand is back in contention for Saints after missing the first three games of the season due to a knee injury but record signing Sofiane Boufal is out for four weeks due to "a little injury".

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