Even before last season had come to a close, rumours where rife that then Southampton manager Claude Puel would be sacked for what was perceived as his negative style of football.
Now I don’t claim to have watched every Southampton game week-in-week-out last year, but the French coach was about to guide the South Coast club to a respectable eight placed finish and reached the final of the EFL cup despite the added distraction of playing in the Europa League, so my initial reaction was that maybe Southampton were getting a little too big for their boots.
After all The Saints were in League One just six years ago, and when you consider that we all pretty much accept that the top six is basically set in stone in the Premier League, I found myself asking: how much more do the club and fans actually want?
Under Puel Southampton always looked like a tidy side who were just lacking a bit of killer instinct, and in fact the stats back this up perfectly; last season The Saints registered 6th best for chances created, but 19th for chances converted.
Fast forward a year and the stats have barely changed, so maybe the real problem wasn’t Puel’s perceived negative playing style but actually the clubs shot-shy attacking players.
There of course has been plenty to admire about Southampton as a club over the last few years. They have finished in eight or above in five of the last six seasons despite selling their best players and/or losing their manager almost every summer, not to mention their superb youth academy.
However, it looks as though they may have dropped the ball with the sacking of Puel, as new man Mauricio Pellegrino seems to be failing to improve the clubs attacking play, but has lost the defensive solidity that his predecessor demanded, which in hindsight might actually have had something to do with the fact his forward players couldn’t score in a brothel with a golden cock.
Of course, we had to listen to the usual muppets in the media kicking up a storm when Leicester appointed the experienced French coach for well, not being British enough basically. Although Puel does not have the hugely misplaced confidence the likes of Sam Allardyche and Alan Pardew have, he does funnily enough have something on his CV that almost no currently employed British coach has on theirs, and that of course is a major trophy from when he guided Monaco to the Ligue Un title.
In fact, dig a little deeper into the Frenchman’s past and you’ll also find that he reached the Champions League semi-final with an unfancied Lyon side.
Since Puel took over at the King Power his side have played eight games, picked up 17 points and scored 15 goals. It’s seems that given a Leicester team with far-far-far superior attacking options than he inherited at Southampton, he is actually doing pretty well.
The changes he has made since becoming Leicester boss have been more subtle than wholesale in nature, but two tweeks in particular; bringing the talented Demarai Gray into the starting XI and moving Riyad Mahrez into a more central role behind the striker are paying massive dividends.
On Wednesday night Puel took his team to visit his old side at St.Marys and he must have taken massive satisfaction in his new team tearing his old club a new one, as they outfought, outplayed and outwitted their opponents.
Surely there must have been a moment, probably when Shinji Okazaki netted the away sides fourth goal in the 63rd minute, that maybe, just maybe those connected with Southampton realised they were just a little too quick to cast Puel aside.