April 1, 2018 / 4:50 AM / 7 months ago

Soccer: Puel confounds doubters as he makes his mark at Leicester

He may not have been everyone’s pick to succeed Craig Shakespeare, but after steering Leicester City to a second successive away league victory, at Brighton and Hove Albion, on Saturday, manager Claude Puel is slowly but surely making his mark on the Premier League once again.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion vs Leicester City - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - March 31, 2018 Leicester City manager Claude Puel REUTERS/Toby Melville

Having been sacked by Southampton after a poor end to the 2016/17 campaign — when Saints failed to score in five of their final six league games — Puel’s reputation in England was anything but lofty.

His arrival at Leicester polarised fans, who feared that the tepid football their Southampton counterparts witnessed towards the end of his tenure on the south coast would become commonplace at the King Power Stadium.

“It’s baffled, saddened and angered me all in one go,” former Leicester striker Stan Collymore said after Puel’s appointment.

Undeterred, Puel has exerted his influence on Leicester, steering his side away from the bottom three after their poor start to the season, and up to eighth, three points behind Burnley in what could prove to be a European qualification spot.

However, it is not the first time Puel has enjoyed managerial success.

Taking Southampton, who had lost several key players before the start of last season, to eighth and a League Cup final was an impressive feat.

Puel achieved no fewer than nine top-four finishes in France before moving to England - and at least two with four different clubs. Like Arsene Wenger, he won the title with Monaco, although his efforts at Lille and Nice were perhaps even more impressive.

“If you want to work and you are willing to listen, you are going to improve with Claude Puel,” Thierry Henry told Sky Sports earlier in the season.

Improvement is what Puel has overseen at Leicester. He has revitalised the Jamie Vardy-Riyad Mahrez partnership, all while shoring up his side’s backline.

Aside from a mauling at runaway leaders Manchester City, Leicester have conceded more than one goal in a league match only once since the turn of the year.

SCHMEICHEL TO THE RESCUE

At Brighton on Saturday, Leicester were put under plenty of pressure but stood firm.

They rode their luck and had Kasper Schmeichel to thank for saving a penalty, but against an in-form team who had dispatched Arsenal 3-1 in their last home match, Leicester held their shape well and nullified their hosts. Puel, however, wasn’t happy.

“(Brighton) deserved another result,” Puel said.

Most other managers would be very happy with such an outcome, on the road against an in-form team, but Puel wants more, and such a desire for further improvement is likely to continue to win over fans aplenty at the King Power Stadium.

Editing by Neville Dalton

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