"Southampton in Crisis!" Is Claude Puel the man to keep the club moving forward?

"One thing that I notice about modern-day football is the lack of loyalty nowadays, Players and managers alike are switching clubs much more easily, mainly just for more money. I’d hate to ever become that kind of manager, only focused on short-term gains." - Then Southampton Manager Ronald Koeman, March 2016 on Sky Sports.

In June, Everton FC offered to almost treble his salary and he left the Saints.

The same annual headlines have started as the Manager and some players have made the yearly migration away from St Marys. Two new young players have been signed and a new Manager appointed.

Here is a profile on the new Southampton Manager for all of you who have never heard of him…… I hadn’t until a couple of weeks ago!

54 year old Frenchman Puel was pretty unique as a player, spending his entire 17 year career with one club, AS Monaco, playing 601 official games and winning two championships and 3 French Cups. He also received a UEFA Cup runners up medal in 1992. He was a Defensive Midfielder and Saints fans will love the loyalty reminding them of all-time fan favourite, Matt Le Tissier.

In January 1999, after a time as Fitness Coach and Reserves Manager (coaching a certain Terry Henry), Puel made the step up to the manager of the first team. Working with players such as David Trezeguet, Ludovic Giuly and Marco Simone, Puel guided Monaco to the Ligue 1 title in his first full season in charge, and was subsequently named Manager of the Year.

A 24-year association with Monaco came to an end in June 2001 when after a year out of the game, Puel was named as head coach at Lille. During his six-year stay, Puel guided Lille to their highest Ligue 1 finish in over 50 years in 2004/5, as they finished the campaign as runners-up. The 2005/06 season saw more success for Lille, as they finished third in the championship, with Puel named Manager of the Year for a second time in his career.

In 2008, Puel was appointed manager on a four-year contract at Lyon. Despite being unable to continue Lyon’s impressive Ligue 1 title success, Puel guided them to three top-three finishes during his time with the club but resigned a year before his contract finished.

It was in Europe where Puel delivered his best results with Lyon, guiding them to their first ever Champions League semi-final in 2010 – beating the likes of Real Madrid on their way to the last four.

After departing at the end of the 2010/11 campaign, Puel arrived at OGC Nice a year later. In his first season in charge, Nice finished fourth – their best Ligue 1 finish since 1976. Puel would oversee a 17th place finish in 2013/14 and an 11th place finish in 2014/15, before ending his final season with the club in fourth again, thus seeing them qualify for the group stages of the 2016/17 Europa League…….the same as Southampton.

Interesting facts about Monsieur Puel

1. France and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry credits Puel for the way in which he developed his famous finishing technique. While working alongside Puel at AS Monaco, Henry was made to rehearse the same sequence to shooting over and over again. After netting a goal against Ireland in Dublin to all but seal France’s spot at the 2006 World Cup, Henry said; "I want to dedicate it to Claude Puel."

2. With Saints set for their maiden UEFA Europa League group stage campaign, Puel’s European experience could come in handy. The Frenchman has overseen 82 European games as a manager, winning 34 of those and drawing 25.

3. During his time in France, Puel has handed senior debuts to a number of high-profile players. The likes of Eden Hazard, Eric Abidal, Hugo Lloris, Yohan Cabaye and Alexandre Lacazette have all benefited from Puel’s willingness to give youth a chance.

Good Luck Claude! To improve on last season’s 6th place would be miraculous, even amongst diehard Saints fans, but with their track record of overcoming adversity over the last few seasons, I won’t be betting against it!


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