Puel in need of more surprises to halt unrest
Claude Puel is facing yet another crucial period in his troubled reign at Leicester City, but is backing his players to defy the bookmakers.
Puel’s position is under pressure again and he has risked further alienating supporters by insisting the boos at the final whistle of Saturday’s defeat by Southampton were “not my concern”.
The next four games will certainly be a concern to Leicester, as they prepare to face Wolverhampton Wanderers, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham in a testing sequence of fixtures.
It promises to be a pivotal four weeks for the Frenchman, as he battles growing unrest behind the scenes and criticism over his style of play from supporters.
Yet Leicester have already shown a propensity for the unpredictable, after effectively saving Puel’s job with wins over Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton during the festive period.
“I think people cannot make a lot of bets on us because it’s always a surprise, and I hope we will continue the surprises,” said Puel.
“We have strong teams for the next games and we will see if we can maintain the surprise.”
After losing to Cardiff, this was Leicester’s second successive defeat at home against a relegation struggler and there was a depressing inevitability about it all for the home fans. They are growing tired of Puel’s side failing to break down teams who put men behind the ball and, despite Southampton being reduced to 10 men with the dismissal of Yan Valery, a comeback never looked likely.
There is also growing concern over the performances of Jamie Vardy, whose qualities as a centreforward are being nullified by Puel’s game plan at home.
Harry Maguire, the England defender, has admitted Leicester’s poor form at the King Power Stadium is a huge disappointment.
“Before the Southampton game, we were seventh in the table and if we finish there at the end of the season it is a great season. It is what we aim for and we have achieved what we have aimed for,” he said.
“The frustration comes from our performances at home. At home against the bottom eight we haven’t been good enough. We hold our hands up there.”
This was one of Maguire’s poorest performances, but he was not alone. James Maddison is struggling to rediscover his promise from earlier in the season, while even Ben Chilwell – usually a standout player – was under par.
Maguire said: “Wolves away will be tough and then there are three others after that. Hopefully we can rise to the occasion and get some more points on the board and set us up for an exciting end to the season.”
Southampton are now up to 16th after this deserved win and optimism continues to build. James Ward-prowse gave them the lead from the penalty spot then Shane Long’s first goal since April came after Valery had been dismissed for a second bookable offence.
Leicester did respond through Wilfred Ndidi’s close-range finish but Southampton held on to move out of the relegation zone.
Ward-prowse believes the impact made by manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has been remarkable. “We have a clear structure and a plan of what to do with and without the ball,” he said.
“You can see in the performances and games we’ve had, there’s an idea and a philosophy, and that’s grown. We’ve had good and bad results but the progress is there to be seen and that’s the way the club needs to be going.” Textbook “kids these days” growling from Graeme Souness (below) on the television coverage at Wembley, when the Sky presenter asked him a leading question about what he thought of the pitch condition. “That?!” thundered Souey. “It’s a fabulous pitch to play on.” Standard.
Defiant: Claude Puel said fans’ boos at the final whistle were ‘not my concern’