Claude Puel quietly exceeding expectations at Leicester City
Claude Puel's appointment as Leicester City manager in place of fan favourite Craig Shakespeare was met with groans from some quarters of the King Power. Less than two months into the job, however, Puel has made the Foxes a force to be reckoned with once again.
Although Leicester began the season quite poorly, Shakespeare's dismissal came as a surprise to most supporters. The 54-year-old had been given the hot seat on a permanent basis only four months prior. After performing well the previous campaign, Shakespeare receiving the sack appeared somewhat cruel.
Claude Puel was elected to take Shakespeare's place. The Frenchman wasn't the most inspiring figure while in charge of Southampton. His pragmatic approach is among the reasons he was axed at St Mary's, despite guiding the Saints to the League Cup final, which they were unlucky to lose.
Although Puel's appointment at Leicester seemed to underwhelm initially, five wins, two draws, and a solitary loss in his first eight games has changed that notion. He is proving an astute acquisition for the Foxes.
Right from Puel's first game at the helm, it was clear how he wanted his team to play. It was in keeping with the counter-attacking tradition that brought Leicester previous success.
Puel has also managed to give some players a chance to redeem themselves. Demarai Gray has certainly taken full advantage. The 21-year-old, who has featured in all the games since the Frenchman took charge, was seemingly on his way out of the club. Gray reinvented himself, however, to become a vital player under Puel's guidance.
Even several previously established players who had difficult starts to the new season have regained form under Puel. Riyad Mahrez is a fine example.
The Algerian has been unplayable in recent weeks, scoring three goals in his last five games. His improved performance is largely due to the greater freedom afforded out on the left wing.
Puel looks to have learned from his mistakes at St Mary's. His Leicester side can't be accused of playing 'boring' or 'unadventurous' football. Regardless of the opposition, there is always a feeling the Foxes will score. There also appears a close rapport between the manager and fans, something that didn't exist at Southampton.
Puel hasn't changed much in way of personnel at Leicester, either. Michael Appleton remains the assistant manager, while the backroom staff is similar to under Shakespeare.
Puel's impact at Leicester has rather slipped under the radar. The soft-spoken tactician has taken the Foxes from tootling just above the relegation zone in the season's opening few weeks to now sitting comfortably in eighth place. Not bad for a manager who sets his teams up to be unimaginative, eh?
It's remarkable what Puel has done thus far in his short time at the King Power. Leicester City is flying once again. If Puel's side continue their fine form, finishing among the European places is a possibility come May.