Southampton were fabulous last season as they finished the 2015/16 Premier League season in a record sixth position having, for the second season running, achieved a record points total of 63. The Saints have been plagued with departures of their top stars to bigger clubs in recent year. The frustration of fans threatened to boil over after manager Ronald Koeman departed for Everton, a slightly bigger club.
The appointment of Claude Puel, who is someone rather unknown in British Isles until you google him up, came as a sigh of relief. Puel brings an impressive CV with him, at least in terms of French football. He has been managing in Ligue 1 every season bar two since 2000 and has always done well with the lesser known clubs.
Puel’s task will not be easy with the Premiership gearing up to be the most competitive ever as the big clubs have strengthened with world class players and top managers. The expectations would be high as the team finished 7th last term and with Leicester winning the title several supporters of several mid-table clubs will hope their teams replicate the miracle. However, the next season would be a different ball game and after losing Wanyama and Sadio Mane, two of the most influential players for Southampton, Puel would need to do a lot of rebuilding in terms of his squad once again.
The Saints can expect Puel to take their team forward, as he has been excellent at rebuilding a squad. He has a done a wonderful job at Nice, where in four years he has taken the club into Europe League after a gap of 40 years. He did all this while playing delightful attacking football.
Puel usually plays with a 3-5-2 or a diamond 4-4-2 formation, that allows full-backs to bomb forward and provide service to the strikers. Cedric Soares, Ryan Bertrand, Cuco Martina and Matt Targett are someone who are built in a more attack-minded mould than a defensive one and will prosper under Puel more than they ever have.
Responsible for giving the likes of David Trezeguet and Thierry Henry their first taste of senior football, Puel is a perfect choice in line with Southampton’s value of developing youngsters. One thing that will go in favour of the French manager, is that he is still unknown in England. He will be given a chance to showcase his abilities with the club. It is not the coincidence that Southampton have earned a knack for being succesful with unknown foreign managers like Pochettino and Koeman and Puel seems quite the same.
Although Southampton have lost key players this summer, they still have superb players and with a transfer kitty of at least £50m at their disposal, they will undoubtedly add to that talent.