Why Leicester City are heading in the right direction under Claude Puel
Eyebrows were certainly raised when Leicester City named Claude Puel as their new manager, following an extremely poor spell at Southampton just three months prior.
However, the 56-year-old Frenchman did exactly what was required; ensure The Foxes' Premier League status. Although the season ended with a whimper, a ninth-placed finish, scooping 47 points, is an excellent return all-things-considered.
Puel was handed the reigns following a dramatic fall from grace for the likeable Craig Shakespeare. After a slow start, the former Nice manager's tactics and ideologies began to pay dividends. Leicester, once again, became the organised, hard-working team that they were under Claudio Ranieri in their spectacular title-winning season.
It may not be pretty, but we're in a results business. Now, we're looking at a Leicester team who are heading in the right direction once again. Given time, Puel will build something. Don't forget that while at Southampton, he did guide them to a League Cup final against Manchester United; a game in which they were immensely unfortunate to lose.
In their fifteen league games under Puel, the Midlands club have won almost 50% of their matches (7). In fact, if you were to draw up a table since his appointment in October, Leicester would be sixth; behind only big-spending powerhouses like Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.
I guess that following their Premier League success-story a few years ago, the bar a Leicester has been raised. It would be an unrealistic expectation to expect a repeat of those scenes, though. Heck, even a place back in Europe would be a stunning achievement.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room. Leicester are going to lose their star player, Riyad Mahrez, this summer. Replacing his massive goal contribution isn't going to be easy. However, Puel has previous with talented wingers in the Premier League. It was he who helped Nathan Redmond earn his first (and only) England call-up. With Demarai Gray under his wing, we could be looking at the next big thing. The 21-year-old definitely has a bright future within the game.
Then you look at Puel's astute work in the transfer market. Somewhat typically, he's building from the back. Acquiring Jonny Evans for just £3.5million from the recently-relegated West Bromwich Albion could be regarded as the bargain of the summer. Don't forget, it wasn't too long ago when the experienced centre-half was linked with a move to Manchester City. They've also added the promising Ricardo Pereira from FC Porto. Although that deal was far more expensive at around £18million, it's a marked upgrade on Danny Simpson; although the Englishman has been an excellent servant for Leicester.
Don't forget that Puel took charge mid-season. This is his first opportunity to help develop his squad over the crucial pre-season period. With everything factored in, Leicester are only going to get better over the next twelve months.
As the old saying goes, you don't really know what you've got until it's gone. Foxes fans should get behind Puel. It's either that, or look towards the usual managerial merry-go-round that rehashes regular names including Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew and Roy Hodgson. At least under the Frenchman, you can see what Leicester are trying to achieve.