Claude Puel insists he wishes to remain at Southampton and says he cannot understand reports linking him with a post-season departure from St Mary’s Stadium.
A sixth-place Premier League finish last season continued Southampton’s run of six consecutive seasons placing higher in the Football League pyramid than the previous campaign, but the Frenchman has failed to continue that remarkable sequence.
The Saints are currently ninth in the table, with five games to play, having enjoyed a run to the EFL Cup final, where they were defeated by Manchester United.
Reports this week have suggested that falling out with the likes of Ryan Bertrand and Nathan Redmond could cost the Frenchman his job, but Puel says it is business as usual ahead of Sunday’s trip to Liverpool.
Asked if he was planning for next season on the south coast, Puel said: “Yes of course, of course. I came here for a project, to continue this work to improve all these young players.
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) May 5, 2017
“Many players have become starting players this year, like Maya Yoshida, Oriol Romeu, Jack Stephens; so it’s important to continue this role and keep building the future of Southampton.
“I’ve been surprised to see these reports [about his future], because it seems for me it has been an interesting season with many games.
“There have been European games, cup games, with quality. We reached the final at Wembley against Manchester United and we’ve also improved many players.
“Many players can still improve, so it’s been interesting work I think. So it has surprised me to see and read all this speculation in particular.”
Puel has had to deal with considerable injury problems this season, having missed Virgil van Dijk (foot) and Charlie Austin (shoulder) since the festive period, while Bertrand and Manolo Gabbiadini have been sidelined in recent months.
“There has been a lot of disappointment after many games, but the quality and work was very interesting and it’s important for us to finish strongly now,” the former Nice boss added.
“We’re ninth in the table with all these games, all these injuries, so it’s okay in the project. This group has gained maturity and experience this year.
“Sometimes we lack consistency and a clinical edge, and all of this we have to correct for next season because we can do better, and we want to retain strong ambition because we are competitors.”
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