Claude Puel arrived last summer after the departure of Ronald Koeman and there was a lot of opinions on how the Frenchman would get on in his first season in England.
The first half of the season was a slow start as the team was adjusting to a new formation and new players were bedding in with the current players, which would always be a tough thing for any team, along with adjusting to a new formation. The season went on and in December we lost Charlie Austin to a dislocated shoulder injury in our last Europa League group stage game against Hapoel Be’er Sheva, which saw us get knocked out of the Europa League.
Southampton announced Austin would miss “three or four months” of the season, which set panic in the Southampton fans because he was the only one who was scoring at the time and that left fans worried. Puel rotated between Shane Long and Jay Rodriguez for the rest of the month as the transfer market was closed and we had to wait until the January transfer window to buy a goalscoring replacement.
January arrived and fans were still wanting goals and a forward was in the sights of the board during the month which saw us linked to a host of forwards, and then we fixed our eyes on Manolo Gabbiadini. The talks took most of the month as the Napoli chairman was fighting for a good deal, afraid that Manolo would “explode” in the Premier League and after talks had concluded, we eventually saw him join the club on the deadline day. However, the fans were waiting for the news on him while seeing Southampton lose to Swansea during the same night.
We also lost Virgil van Dijk and Jose Fonte to injury and sale respectively, which was a massive blow as we didnt replace the latter, who joined West Ham after handing in a transfer request to the club. We did, however, bring in former Juventus defender Martin Caceres on a short-term deal until the end of the season to bolster the ranks as we were left with Maya Yoshida and Jack Stephens to cover while Florin Gardos was still coming back from a long-term injury.
To lose three players over a season like that is tough but for me injuries are part and parcel of football and should not be offered as a reason why Claude Puel should remain at Southampton next season. Most of the newspapers are stating that Claude Puel will be given his marching orders next week as he discusses the season with Les Reed, where they will talk about the whole season from the Europa League to the EFL Cup.
The notion from outside of the club is that sacking Claude Puel is “wrong” or “unfair”. From the outside you see why, but if you see the reactions of the fans who go week in, week out, they are not happy with his style and frankly would like to see him move on in the summer.
Some of the players have reportedly been unhappy with Puel’s style and his amount of changes has apparently caused anger amongst key players, which could prove to nail another blow towards Puel, who is fighting for his job. Even comments from Ralph Krueger refusing to confirm that Claude Puel will be manager next season is another blow for the manager.
I sense a change is coming and will leave a split between the fans whatever way the board decide to go next week. If Puel does leave next week, then Les Reed has to get the decision spot on this time because the heat is firmly on his shoulders to get the right man for the job.
This time next week Claude Puel could have left Southampton which, for me, would be the best decision. I would say thank you for Wembley and bringing through young players this season, but it is end of the road for you.
Whatever happens, we march on.