You’d think people would know better by now than to question Leicester City’s Thai owners when it comes to managerial appointments. When they brought Claudio Ranieri on board in the summer of 2015, it’s fair to say that most watchers expected the previous season’s relegation near-miss to become a direct hit in 2016. We all know how that turned out.
So when Ranieri’s successor Craig Shakespeare was asked to return his car park pass after eight games of turgid nothingness earlier this season, the shock at his replacement should probably have been leavened with some caution. Claude Puel was last seen by English fans being sacked by Southampton, whose owners seemed to think that an eighth-place finish and a League Cup final (which they were unlucky not to win) was an underperformance. They were wrong– so has their loss been Leicester’s gain?
Leicester Won’t Win The League Again, But…
First things first; nobody expects the Foxes to climb from their current mid-table spot to challenge for the title or the top four. Nonetheless, with a gap of just five points separating them and sixth place, a decent run could have the East Midlands side fighting for a European place. That’s not an eventuality anyone could have foreseen when they drew 1-1 with West Brom in a game so poor that — to put it kindly — it could have got football banned.
A recent 3-2 win at Newcastle somewhat punctures the reputation he gained at Southampton for “boring” football. Coming as it did after a comfortable win over Spurs even Stratabet didn’t see coming, and a win over this season’s golden boys Burnley, the win has Leicester fans in optimistic mood.
Puel Was Unfairly Maligned At Southampton
When Leicester announced their new manager, it was met with a Tweet from Gary Lineker that stretched to three words: “Claude Puel? Really?”.
Not to throw shade at Leicester’s most famous son– anyone with any connection to the club could have told you that Lineker was jokingly referencing his earlier, more famous Tweet from the time of Ranieri’s appointment. However, Lineker’s “shock” was unironically shared by many, who did not feel like Puel was a big enough name.
Let that sink in. A League Cup final at Southampton, a Champions’ League semi with Lyon and a league title with Monaco under his belt, and he’s not a big enough name? That was always a wild over-reaction, and the truth is that he overachieved at Southampton. It’s just that he arrived hot on the heels of Ronald Koeman, who had an excellent run there but ultimately finished xixth himself.
The Best Is Yet To Come?
When a manager arrives at a club mid-season, there is always the small matter of trying to get someone else’s squad to play their style of football. Puel has reacted well to this situation, drawing excellent form from Riyad Mahrez and Demarai Gray. With the January transfer window around the corner he’s likely to also have a transfer budget to work with, as well as the chance to add Adrien Silva, bizarrely exiled from action by a delayed registration, into the match day squad.
Leicester fans are happy with what they’ve seen so far from the enigmatic Frenchman. With a few more wins between now and the end of the season, Claude could well yet be the new Claudio.