How did Claude Puel know about the Solskjaer effect?
Background Photo By: Dom Fellowes, CC By 2.0.
Following Vichai Srivaddhanapraba’s tragic passing, uncertainty shrouded Leicester City. Nobody knew what the future held. Doubts crept over supporters. Still reeling from the demise of the man who had brought so much joy to the city, the club needed a lift.
Claude Puel, considered the most moribund manager ever to come out of France. was the last person anyone expected to perk things up. The Frenchman's intelligent work restored hope at the club. After a tumultuous period following the tragedy, Leicester City are back on the rise.
Inconsistency remains. Losses to Newport County in the FA Cup and Cardiff in the Premier League at home disappointed. But there are also shock wins over Manchester City and Chelsea as well as another against Everton to celebrate over the holiday fixtures. Truth be told, the loss to Cardiff was predictable. Leicester struggle against clubs who defend in low blocks.
Puel plays a compact counterattacking style himself. When the opponent doesn't attack, it's difficult to hit them on the counter. Because the side doesn't play for possession and create, Puel became notorious for boring tactics.
Prior to the tragedy, the Foxes pulled thirteen points from ten games. Scrappy football churned out just fourteen goals. His job was under threat. He remains the odds-on favourite for the sack paying even less than Huddersfield's David Wagner. The shocks forced the manager tinker with his style. Demarai Gray's winner in the away match to Cardiff revealed unexpected flexibility from the manager.
Despite that joyous moment, reality stung like a bee. After the funeral service, Leicester couldn't find their way.
The Foxes picked up a single win in their next six. Facing a blue, blue, blue Christmas, Puel somehow sparked his side. Kasper Schmeichel stymied Maurizio Sarri's attack and the squad countered to great effect. Jamie Vardy’s superb goal in the second half stunned the defensively frail Chelsea squad.
The Foxes headed into King Power Stadium against a shaken up Manchester City filled with confidence. Marc Albrighton's goal along with a stunner from Ricardo Perreira gave the Foxes full points, leaving City's holiday session in ruin.
While Leicester fell to a narrow loss to Cardiff due to exhaustion and overconfidence, they rallied to stun Everton on New Year's Day. James Maddison formed a brilliant partnership with Vardy, allowing him to flourish with seven goals. Maddison’s flair, confidence and stunning creativity have made supporters forget Riyad Mahrez.
Meanwhile, the rearguard remains strong. Only the top four sides concede fewer goals than Leicester's 25.
Hamza Choudhury, whose clever movement and steely presence work wonders for Leicester's three-man midfield, symbolises Puel's understanding the club must move forward. The strong midfield is allowing hard-working wing-backs Perreira and Ben Chillwell to pump balls forward, while the front-men pour in timely goals.
The French tactician brought defensive sturdiness to Leicester on arrival, inserting leadership qualities in his defenders. He created a tough midfield pivot with Wilfred Ndidi and Nampalys Mendy. Now he's building on it through youth and creativity. The Maddison-Vardy partnership’s been his golden ticket. He’s rotated his squad and tinkered with tactics to great effect. Puel’s making the Leicester players enjoy playing football again after a dark period and bringing the kind of joy that would have made Vichai proud.