Claude Puel

Why Southampton Was Right To Sack Claude Puel

Southampton's decision to axe Claude Puel after just one season appears harsh from a football sense, but in reality, was inevitable. Though there were a couple high points illuminated by flashes of his incredible tactical ingenuity, however, the handwriting had been on the wall from the word go.

When the Saints marched hundreds of miles to pluck one of France's finest managers from Nice, it wasn't cos they needed someone to remake Claudio Ranieri's fairytale run of the previous season. Neither were they eyeing another continental upset, similar to what less-fancied Roberto Di Matteo did with Chelsea in 2012. Either way, Southampton knew demanding too much from a tactician, who had never worked outside his homeland, would be extremely deluding.

Instead, they handed him a quite simple mandate; to either better or at worst, repeat last season's sixth-place finish, or forthwith get the boot. The club had been on a steady rise since 2011, improving each campaign, despite consistently auctioning their best players to rival teams. “Claude has a fantastic platform to work from and is aware that our ambition is to repeat and improve on our performances in the Premier League over the past three seasons," the club's Executive Director of Football, Les Reed, said last season.

“Claude has a track record of improving the situations he has been presented with and we are confident he can repeat this at Southampton. His Champions League and European experience will be valuable in our Europa League challenge this coming season."

Indeed, Puel has proven to have a penchant for fixing, upgrading and making things much better than he meets them. At Monaco, he won the Ligue 1 in only his first season in 2000. We all recall what happened to the Principality club afterwards; 17 barren seasons, rescued eventually by Leonardo Jardim. He then moulded Lille from a yo-yo team into a force on the continent. Succeeded by a solid stint at Lyon, leading them to their first ever Champions League semi-final in 2010, before spending four successful seasons at Nice.

Now with the stake raised a bit higher, Puel grasped he not only had to produce his usual upgrade tricks on the Saints but mustn't allow them to suffer any form of relapse. But sadly, the Frenchman failed in that regard. His team finished eighth, which on paper isn't totally dreadful, considering the strength of the sides above them. They were even more terrible in the Europa League, exiting the competition in the group phase. And not even a historic first trip to Wembley in about 15 years could spare his job.

Evidently, the fans wanted more. More goals, more home victories and most importantly, more attractive and entertaining brand of football. Certainly not the dour, boring, and old-fashioned counter-attacking style the 58-year-old symbolises. Perhaps the reason they amassed just 41 goals, the lowest in the top half of the log last term. Puel's side wasn't simply shambolic but lacked creativity too, failing to score in six of their last seven home matches, further infuriating the supporters, who came clamping on him.

"I think it probably is in the end [the right call to remove Puel]," ex-Saint, Matt Le Tissier told Sky Sports. "The end of the campaign was disappointing, the Europa League campaign was pretty disappointing. We finished eighth but with 17 fewer points than last season. The cup final was a fantastic day out and we probably should have won given the chances we had. Had Claude wanted to change and be a little more attacking I think he would have still been in charge at the start of next season. I don't think he was prepared to go along with those lines."

Puel's reputation remains intact despite the sack. Only a few French managers can rival his rich resume. However, his coming to England appears to have taken Southampton backwards, hence, his sack justified.

About the Author Toby Prince

An unrepentant soccer freak other freaks call geek.

Leave a Comment: