Leicester City fans’ frustrations with manager Claude Puel seem to have increased at an exponential rate throughout this season. He has been booed on multiple occasions at the King Power Stadium, and banners calling for the sacking of the Frenchman have been seen in the stands.
When I say puel you say out. Puel……. Puel……… #puelout
— CharlesWale (@cjwale) 10 February 2019
Puel out etc. I don’t even care anymore
— rory bentley (@r0ryb) 10 February 2019
So do the Puel in lot still think we’re going to finish 7th, we’ll be lucky to finish above 7th from bottom #PUELOUT
— neil palmer (@neilpalmer10) 12 February 2019
Of course, the Foxes have had a few disappointing results, especially in the domestic cup competitions. What’s more, their home form has also been poor. On top of that, no manager ought to be above criticism from the supporters who pay to see the team play. However, given the context of where Leicester are as a club right now, these attacks on Puel seem misguided and largely unfair.
Leicester are currently 12th in the table, with 26 games played. They are only one point behind 9th placed Everton though, and are five points clear of Crystal Palace directly below them. Relegation is no threat whatsoever, whilst a top half finish is very much still on the cards. Realistically, this is about where the Foxes should be. A really good season might see them pushing for the Europa League, but otherwise, being safely ensconced in mid-table is their level.
Beyond results, though, many of the criticisms that have been levelled at Puel revolve around his style of play. However, Leicester took the game positively and aggressively to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley last time out and have played some very attractive football on occasions this season.
They may lack a defined footballing identity or playing philosophy, but that is a symptom of the great overhaul of the squad that Puel is currently having to manage. With this giant task facing the manager, it is especially impressive that he has maintained the club’s healthy league position with such little fuss.
The great task facing Puel is the dismantling of Leicester’s iconic 2015/16 Premier League title-winning squad. Of the group that shocked world football to lift that momentous crown, only one started for the Foxes against Spurs – goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. The likes of club-captain Wes Morgan, fan favourite Shinji Okazaki and prolific goalscorer Jamie Vardy were all on the bench.
These club legends are currently being phased out. If you’ve seen the 35-year-old Morgan play at all this season you’ll understand why that process is so necessary. Likewise, Vardy and Okazaki are both 32, as are fellow title-winners Danny Simpson and Christian Fuchs.
Whilst these players are icons, and hold a special place in the hearts of the Leicester faithful, their time has passed. However, it could be this systematic procession of club greats out of the limelight that is fuelling some of the animosity towards Puel. He is conducting and overseeing this great passing on of the baton after all.
He may not have found the perfect tactical balance yet, or his best starting XI, or even a style of play that suits all of his squad, but the former Monaco manager is doing a fine job of bringing the next generation of Leicester stars through.
Many youngsters, several of which have been signed during Puel’s tenure, are currently impressing for the club. The likes of Demarai Gray, Hamza Choudhury, Wilfred Ndidi and James Maddison are amongst this contingent. Kelechi Iheanacho, Caglar Soyuncu and Harvey Barnes all also offer great promise for the future too, even if they haven’t quite delivered yet.
His huge project may not yet be complete, but Puel is taking this club in the right direction, and Leicester fans should recognise that by affording him the patience he deserves.