Mark Hughes admits Arsene Wenger rivalry can 'get a little silly'

Mark Hughes and Arsene Wenger shake hands in 2016
Image: Mark Hughes says the criticism Arsene Wenger has received is unfair

Mark Hughes has revealed his admiration for the "outstanding" Arsene Wenger as Southampton prepare for Sunday's trip to Arsenal, live on Sky Sports Premier League.

Welshman Hughes urgently requires Southampton to pick up three points at the Emirates Stadium as they fight to remain in the Premier League.

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There is significant history between Hughes and Wenger, following the Arsenal manager's previous refusal to shake Hughes' hand and Hughes accusing him of being a bad loser amid wider tension between them that extends back to the Southampton manager's time at Blackburn and Manchester City.

The pressure presently surrounding his new club and which led to Hughes being sacked by Stoke earlier this year is similar to that under which Wenger consistently works.

Hughes says he expects a reaction from his players against Arsenal following their defeat to West ham last weekend

Hughes was asked if he felt long-term criticism of the Frenchman was unfair, and he said: "Absolutely. He's done a remarkable job. He's an outstanding manager and has been for a huge number of years.

"I'm a manager as well so I know how difficult it is to have longevity in your career, and he trumps me by about 10-15 years, so he's not doing bad.

"I've got the utmost respect for Arsene. Don't get me wrong, he wants to win and so do I and sometimes we probably get a little bit silly, but there you go.

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"[It's] not always on my instigation, by the way."

A preview of Sunday's Premier League games as Arsenal face Southampton and Chelsea take on West Ham

Southampton will hand a late fitness test to Mario Lemina - previously struggling with a virus - before Hughes selects his XI to start on Sunday, though a groin injury means Sam McQueen has already been ruled out.

The quality of the squad Hughes recently inherited means he remains surprised that they have struggled as they have, but he hinted at their complacency when he said: "If you talk to people around the club to get an insight on their take on what's gone wrong this year, there's a bit of debate and discussion that they didn't realise was slowly building to the situation we find ourselves in now.

"That can happen, you think, 'We'll be okay, we'll win next week', and then all of a sudden you're down to seven or eight games, so it can sometimes catch people unaware.

"I don't think we have any problem in that regard now, because everyone totally understands where we are now and what we have to do."

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