New boss Claude Puel set steep task by Southampton

Southampton have challenged Claude Puel to beat last season’s record sixth place Premier League finish, after confirming the Frenchman as their new manager on a three-year deal.

The former Monaco and Nice boss replaces Ronald Koeman, who left for Everton earlier this summer, while former Aston Villa coach Eric Black has been named as Puel’s assistant.

Pascal Plancque has also joined Puel’s backroom staff, while Southampton have agreed a deal to retain Dave Watson among the coaching set-up.

Sammy Lee has left the club, however, as the Saints gear up for life after Koeman.

“Claude has a fantastic platform to work from and is aware that our ambition is to repeat and improve on our performances in the Premier League over the past three seasons,” said Southampton’s executive director of football Les Reed.

“Claude has a track record of improving the situations he has been presented with and we are confident he can repeat this at Southampton.

“Claude clearly came out on top of a very impressive shortlist. We have not only got the best man, but the right coaching team to support him.

“In order to ensure we appointed a manager who would meet our needs as a club, feedback from the dressing room, as well as taking account of our culture, vision and values was critical in drawing up our criteria for the appointment.”

The experienced Frenchman must now quickly reshape Saints’ squad to his satisfaction, after the departures of Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama this summer.

The Saints have already brought in Nathan Redmond to offset the loss of Mane to Liverpool, but Puel could well seek a holding midfielder to replace Wanyama.

Reed hailed Southampton’s new set-up by insisting former Villa coach Black can help underpin Puel’s tenure.

“Eric Black has an excellent pedigree as a coach and vast experience domestically and internationally,” said Reed.

“Pascal Plancque has an excellent record as a technical coach and, like Claude, has been responsible for developing many young French talents into top-quality players.

“We have an excellent group of first-team players who are keen to take another step forward.

“There is already a confidence and excitement in the building as some of the squad has returned for testing and they are in great shape.

“His Champions League and European experience will be valuable in our Europa League challenge this coming season and with the support of our excellent staff at the club I am sure he will do well.”

Here’s a little extra sport: BallTalk TV look ahead to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.


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