Claude Puel’s appointment as Leicester City manager on Wednesday night was met with some mixed reactions by the club’s fans. The 56-year-old Frenchman was announced as Craig Shakespeare’s successor at the King Power Stadium via Twitter.
Puel has a vast pedigree in management, having been at the helm of the likes of Monaco, Lyon – whom he took to the Champions League semi-finals in 2010 – Nice and Southampton. His spell at St Mary’s last season is probably what sticks in the minds of most Premier League viewers, but his achievements there are overlooked by some.
He took Southampton to their first cup final since 2003, conceding no goals throughout their route to Wembley. Although they were defeated 3-2 by Manchester United, Puel’s side dominated large parts of the final and were only undone by a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal.
They never came close to challenging for Europe in terms of the Premier League but finished in 8th place, never in any threat of relegation. For a side like Southampton, who recorded a 6th place finish the season before under Ronald Koeman, that was seen as a disappointment.
Puel was criticised for his defensive tactics at Southampton board. However, those very tactics could be a good fit at his new club. The Foxes have two no-nonsense style defenders in Wes Morgan and Harry Maguire, with the latter being skilful with the ball at his feet – a key base to build from.
Before his sacking, Shakespeare brought in Sevilla’s Vicente Iborra, one of La Liga’s highest rated defensive midfielders and someone who can also play further forward.
Puel signed Manolo Gabbiadini for Southampton in January – a striker known for his strong finishing abilities. These are traits both Islam Slimani and Jamie Vardy can evidently offer at his new club.
Even when Claudio Ranieri guided Leicester to their historic title victory, they were often dominated in terms of possession and relied on defensive solidity and counter attacking football. They have since lost N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater in midfield, two of the key men behind that triumph.
Since then, both Ranieri and Shakespeare struggled to replicate the same style and have subsequently witnessed the club drop down the Premier League order. Thankfully for Leicester fans, Puel has experience of managing clubs who are in a state of struggle.
At Lyon, he took over an outfit that had employed four managers in four years before his appointment in 2008. In 2010, two years after his arrival, he had guided them to a Champions League semi-final thanks to an emphatic triumph over Real Madrid.
At Nice, he built up a side capable of challenging for the top spots in Ligue 1, setting his successor, Lucien Favre, up to do just that during the season just gone.
Puel now takes over at a club which still has, despite its current struggles, high expectations of success. His main priority will have to be helping Leicester move up the Premier League table, but fans will also have an eye on the quarter final of the Carabao Cup.
Although any repeat of their Champions League journey last season seems a long way away, Puel’s track record suggests he is the right man to take on the challenge at the King Power Stadium.
He first has to convince Riyad Mahrez to stay at the club, the Algerian having been linked with a move away from Leicester several times in the summer window. There are also reports that the influential Jamie Vardy may be set to leave, whilst he will be without the services of Adrien Silva until January, a midfielder with Champions League experience.
Overall, although the Frenchman may not have been the first choice name amongst the fans for the Leicester job, his track record suggests that he can be the man to take the Foxes forward in the long term.
Xherdan Shaqiri should join Southampton and continue in his best role
The Swiss international is wanted by a number of clubs, including Southampton.
It looks as though Xherdan Shaqiri will be on the move this summer. The Swiss star suffered relegation with Stoke City last season and is not prepared to play in the Championship. The news he could be on his way has attracted plenty of attention, with the latest reports suggesting it is Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton who are leading the race for his signature.
The Mirror reported this week that both Spurs and Southampton are keen on activating his bargain release clause of £12 million this summer.
The lure of playing for Spurs will no doubt be a feature for Shaqiri. They can offer the Champions League football he probably craves.
But he should choose Southampton instead.
Why? Here’s why?
Shaqiri thrives as a big fish in a smaller pond. During his time at hometown club FC Basel he was unstoppable and at Stoke he has been in similar form. With regular football and responsibility the 26-year-old thrives and can but in match-winning performances.
In the past, when playing for the bigger sides, he has found himself lost. At Bayern Munich he played a substitute role for his three seasons in Bavaria. Once he had enough of that, he headed to Inter Milan – another European giant.
Rightly so. In terms of talent, Shaqiri is good enough for such teams. However, again he found himself a bit-part player at the San Siro, coming off the bench more than he started.
The fact is Shaqiri is something of a luxury player and, if a team is not built around him, he does not thrive.
Southampton would automatically make him the star of their team. With the presence of his former Stoke boss Mark Hughes also a factor, then Southampton is obviously the best choice for the mercurial attacker.
Alex McCarthy isn’t the signing of intent Tottenham need
The 28-year-old has attracted a lot of attention since he replaced Fraser Forster between the sticks for the Saints earlier this season and was crucial in ensuring Southampton stayed in the Premier League.
A return to London may tempt the former Crystal Palace keeper. However, it doesn’t seem like a transfer that will suit either party.
Hugo Lloris is still one of the most respected keepers in world football and McCarthy, although impressive this season, isn’t a player capable of replacing the France national team captain. The two are similar in age and the difference in current ability is substantial.
The Mirror‘s report also states Michel Vorm’s contract is coming up to its final year so McCarthy could be seen as a potential replacement for the Dutchman. However, Paulo Gazzaniga has emerged as a solid candidate for that secondary role after his MOTM performance against Crystal Palace in November.
If Tottenham are to kick on and try and keep the pace with City, then signings are crucial. Their season could very much depend on the business they get done this summer and signings like McCarthy will not excite fans in the slightest.
Liverpool‘s first signing saw them break the bank to sign Fabinho, a talent who has shone in Europe the last few years, and maybe Pochettino should be ensuring the Lilywhites are after the same calibre of player considering the club finished in the top-three for the third successive season.
Sam McQueen linked but losing Joe Bryan would hurt Bristol City
The Englishman has been at Ashton Gate since 15 years of age.
According to the Bristol Post, Bristol City are being linked with Southampton‘s Sam McQueen as the club’s replacement for full-back Joe Bryan, meaning the South-West club could be preparing for life without the 24-year-old, who has made over 229 appearances for the club.
The Robins ultimately look set to lose Bryan during the summer transfer window with Burnley, Everton and Aston Villa all keen on signing the left-back. With only a year left on his contract at Ashton Gate, the club could be tempted to cash-in for the home grown defender, for a fee of around £6 million.
Despite McQueen being a sensible replacement for City, his arrival wouldn’t quite soften the blow of losing Bryan, who has quickly established himself as one of the best all-round defenders in the EFL Championship.
The full-back has been with the side since he was 15 years of age and has gone on to become one of their most important players. Many will remember the 24-year-old’s wonder strike to help beat Premier League giants Manchester United in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, after a display that saw him named man-of-the-match.
Losing a player of his calibre will not help the club’s attempts to challenge for the play-offs next season. Considering the club were in contention for a top two place as recently as Christmas, it is difficult to comprehend the board selling one of their best players.
The Robins sat second in the Championship during the festive period but went on to finish a disappointing 11th after only picking up 20 points from their final 22 games.
Lee Johnson reportedly sees McQueen, who was told he can quite St Mary’s this summer, as the most likely replacement for Bryan this summer, if the right offer comes in for the latter’s services.
The Saints defender played 22 times in the 2017/18 season, mostly from the bench, but is a player who could definitely prove his worth.
At 23, he still has years to improve and with a full Championship season under his belt, he could emerge a shrewd replacement for long-term servant Bryan.
However, the news won’t float well with City fans who would prefer to keep their homegrown player, rather than attempt to replace him.
Nonetheless, with a year left on his contract, cashing in on the £6 million talent, while bringing in Sam McQueen, could prove a smart piece of business from the Robins.
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