Does Claude Puel hold the key to a Leicester City turn in fortunes?
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.