'Wenger earned the players' respect'

Claude Puel at Monaco under Wenger in 1993
Claude Puel at Monaco under Wenger in 1993

When Arsène Wenger was a pioneering young manager at Monaco in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Claude Puel was one of his on-field generals. The pair forged a close bond during seven years of highs and lows together.

In an extract from an interview in this weekend's Emirates Cup programme, Puel reflects on his days playing under Wenger and reveals why he will always look up to the man who was a huge influence on his career.

Given his low profile when he got the [Monaco] post, how did Arsène persuade top-class France internationals that he was the right man for the job?

We had some great players and a very good team but we were open and receptive to him from the start. There were no real problems. Arsène Wenger has always had an aura - he’s tall, he has a certain stature, he’s calm, he has a natural authority. He managed to earn the players’ respect without raising his voice because that’s how he does things.

"[Wenger has] not changed at all. He’s always been the same person, with that natural authority. He doesn’t need to be confrontational to earn respect"

Claude Puel

So would it be fair to say he was the same person 25 years ago as he is now?

He’s changed as a manager in terms of the training sessions he puts on, the exercises the players do and his coaching methods. You’d expect that because he was a young manager at the time and football has moved on. But in terms of who he is, for me he’s not changed at all. He’s always been the same person, with that natural authority. He doesn’t need to be confrontational to earn respect.

Do you remember any changes he made to preparations for matches at Monaco?

He was one of the first managers to work on tactics as much as he did. Certainly at Monaco he was the first one to be so precise and go into so much detail in that respect. We would work with video, and so on.

I also noticed the way he would deal with the different elements of the job. During the match he would be totally engrossed on the touchline and then five minutes after the final whistle he would be in the press conference, calmly describing to the media what had gone on. That ability to deal with the different pressures of the job is also linked to his personality, in my opinion.

What are your relations with him today?

We bump into each other now and again, notably at France international matches because he commentates for [TV channel] TF1 and I commentate for Radio France. After being Lyon manager [2008 to 2011] I had a sabbatical year and went to see Arsenal train and play thanks to my contact with him.

Playing under him at Monaco for seven years had a real impact on me. He was made to go and work in England because he has a huge passion for football yet manages to keep things in perspective. I like him a lot because he builds his friendships and his players in the same way - on firm foundations. There is nothing superficial about him at all.

Read the full interview in the Emirates Cup souvenir programme. It's packed with features, competitions to win Premier League tickets, flights and signed shirts, plus a giant poster of our new signings and Aaron Ramsey

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