Claude Puel has made a largely positive start to his Southampton managerial career after joining the south coast club from Nice in the summer.
Despite a slow beginning to the season as the players adapted to a new formation that their French manager implemented, results have gradually improved and the club secured a famous 2-1 win against Inter Milan in the Europa League at St Mary’s Stadium prior to the international break, to leave them on the brink of reaching the knockout stages of the competition.
That was followed up by a defeat to a Hull City team that had been beaten in their previous six Premier League games, showing there is still room for further improvement.
Ronald Koeman led the Saints to an impressive sixth-placed finish in the top flight last term before departing for Everton, but here at FootballFanCast, we believe that Puel has improved this Saints side.
Here are THREE positive changes he has made to Koeman’s Southampton side…
When things were going well for Ronald Koeman and Southampton, they tended to go very well, as was proven with a sixth-placed finish in the Premier League last season.
However, it wasn’t always plain sailing, and the club actually went ten matches without a win before they beat Arsenal 4-0 on Boxing Day last year.
It was often said of Koeman that he lacked a Plan B when his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation failed to work, but that is something that can’t be said of Puel.
The Frenchman has already successfully introduced a new 4-4-2 diamond formation, which can be easily adapted into a number of other set-ups.
Koeman was very much a manager that used to stick with a similar starting XI, but when he did rest his first-team players for cup matches during his tenure with Saints, it didn’t often end well for the club.
Two FA Cup home defeats to Crystal Palace spring to mind, but it has been a different story under Puel this term.
The Frenchman has often made plenty of changes between matches in different competitions, but it has made little difference to their progress in the cup competitions as they are on the brink of reaching the last-32 of the Europa League, and are due to face Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
Puel has really boosted the confidence of his squad and obviously told all of them that they were to be a big part of his plans this season. The majority of them have stepped up to the mark when they have been called upon, too.
Koeman often chose to play with two defensive midfielders during his tenure with Saints, but Puel has come in and has been more brave.
Deploying just one defensive midfielder in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, Southampton have looked much improved going forward, even if there is a little less protection in front of the back four.
The club has made the fourth highest number of key passes (133) in the Premier League this season, but it is their finishing that Puel will need to work on in the coming months – they have picked up just four assists from those passes.