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Puel eager for long-awaited Wenger test

Southampton’s Fraser Forster and Ryan Bertrand could be fit to face Arsenal when Claude Puel goes up against his former Monaco manager Arsene Wenger for the first time on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Forster pulled out of the squad for England’s 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Slovakia due to an arm injury, while full-back Bertrand is yet to play this season as he seeks to shake off a knee problem.

Both players are in selection contention for the Premier League clash at Emirates Stadium, where Puel, no novice in the dugout at 55 years old, will test himself against the managerial stalwart who coached him in Ligue 1. 

“Arsene Wenger was my trainer during seven years at Monaco,” Puel said.

“It’s a pleasure to see him on the other bench. We didn’t have the possibility in the past to play against [each other] in the Champions League for example. He’s a strong manager … an example for all.”

In contrast to the positive prognosis for Forster and Bertrand, off-season recruit Jeremy Pied is set to miss much of the campaign after hurting his knee in training late last month.

“It’s a big injury,” Puel said.

“It’s a bad moment for him, for the team also because I think he will be important for the squad. It’s the life and career of a player. Perhaps he can come back between six months and nine months. I hope he can come back at end of the season to help us.”

Jay Rodriguez meanwhile, who appears to have finally overcome his own long-running fitness woes, netted the equaliser in a 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland last time out.

The 27-year-old did not, as expected, find himself sent out on loan to gain match fitness. 

“It’s not just the goal [that encouraged me] to keep him,” Puel said.

“I saw Jay progress, improve [throughout] all the training [sessions], take confidence [and] come back, step by step, with a good physical level. 

“And I [found] a player with good spirit, good attitude, positive. He worked very well. I think perhaps it’s the first step of a great comeback in the team. Many things [are] positive when I see him on the pitch.”

Thu 8 Sep, 2016
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