Limbo for Claude Puel and Leicester

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Claude Puel prepares for his side’s opener against Manchester United. (Photo credit: lcfc.com)

Limbo for Claude Puel and Leicester

by Ryan Conway

Last season:
Premier League: 9th
F.A. Cup: Quarter-finals (lost vs Chelsea)
Carabao Cup: Quarter-finals (lost vs Manchester City)

Leicester had a season which most would be happy with. However, since their miraculous league triumph there have always been observers who feel The Foxes should compete on a regular basis.

Claude Puel guided his side to the last eight in both domestic cups in 2018. Should he be standing inside Wembley hoisting one of the F.A. Cup or the Carabao Cup, then surely his job status will be secure and that will represent progress from last campaign.

Equally, the club feel precariously poised. There were murmers at times last season that while Puel’s brand of football was easy on the eye, it sacrificed defensive stability. Should the Midlands outfit lose a string of games by three or four, then the former Southampton manager’s seat could start to heat up.

Leicester conceded 60 goals last season and the club recognised they must tighten up at the back, signing four defenders during the transfer window. Further forward, the post-Riyad Mahrez era begins which could see Jamie Vardy and company starved of chances more often than last campaign. The hope is that the talented James Maddison will be able to fill part of that void.

The fairytale of Premier League success followed by a stint in the Champions League is long gone, but the settling back into top half status is no slight on the 2015/16 league champions. Rather it should be their bare minimum as an establish Premier League unit.

Jamie Vardy signed a new four-year deal on transfer deadline day which will keep him at the club until he is 35 years old. The England forward netted 20 times last season and has a knack of scoring in fixtures against the so-called ‘top six’. His ammunition may be more limited this term, but the 31-year-old is a natural finisher and don’t be surprised if he opens his account against Manchester United on Friday evening.

Player to watch: Damarai Gray

Demarai Grey (left) will be hoping he can fill the void left by Riyad Mahrez (Photo credit: lcfc.com)

With Mahrez out of the picture there will be more responsibility falling on the shoulders of the England winger. Gray flashed his obvious potential last season and contributed three goals in their league campaign.

Now 22-years-old, Puel will be hopeful that the young Englishman starts to produce game-changing performances in a consistent basis. Gray will hold the same hopes, too, if he is to force his way into the England setup ahead of qualification for Euro 2020.

Comfortable on either foot, can drive down the line or cut inside, the former Birmingham City product is the prototypical modern-day wide player. Should he take a substantial step in his development then the loss of Mahrez may not be felt as significantly.

The number of goals and assists will have to increase at a dramatic pace, especially if he is to feature more prominently in the starting XI. Gray registered just one assist last season – for a creative player that total is worrisome

Should the Leicester man bolster his goals and assists tally and become more consistent throughout the 38-game league season, then he may force his way into the plans of Gareth Southgate as well as becoming the rising star of Leicestershire.

Players in: James Maddison (Norwich City), Ricardo Pereira (FC Porto), Caglar Soyuncu (Freiburg), Rachid Ghezzal (Monaco), Danny Ward (Liverpool), Jonny Evans (West Brom).

Players out: Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City), Ahmed Musa (Al-Nassr), Ben Hamer (Huddersfield Town), Harvey Barnes (West Brom – loan), George Thomas (Scunthorpe United – loan), Robert Huth (Released).

Predicted finish: 11th

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