Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has heaped praise on Southampton’s “prolific” youth set-up while also acknowledging their scouting network.
Southampton have been extremely successful in recent years at producing the best talent around and their academy is seen as one of the finest in the country.
The Gunners face the Saints in the EFL Cup quarter-finals at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night and Wenger has praised the South Coast club for unearthing players like Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
“You see the likes of [Jose] Fonte and Cedric [Soares] are European champions now with Portugal, so Southampton have done extremely well with their scouting,” Wenger said.
“They have certainly been the most prolific producers of top talent in England in the last 15 years. They have not only produced talent, but top talents.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 30, 2016
“We have some examples at our club with [Theo] Walcott, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain and [Calum] Chambers, but don’t forget they’ve also produced top quality players like Gareth Bale, Adam Lallana and of course others.
“They do not only produce quality players, they scout very well as well because they scouted players like Sadio Mane.”
The Saints lost Ronald Koeman to Everton in the summer and replaced him with Claude Puel and Wenger is confident the Frenchman will continue doing a good job at the St Mary’s Stadium this season.
“I’m not at all surprised that Puel and Southampton are doing well. He did a good job at Nice over the last four years,” Wenger added.
“We talk, of course, but not before the game. I followed his career and was always ready to talk when he needed me.
“But he’s now older than 50, has experience in this job and I think he has done very well at Southampton so far.”