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With just a few weeks remaining in the season,

Manager Claude Puel is approaching his last chance to secure the legacy of his first stint in charge of Southampton.

Key criteria assessed as Claude Puel's first season at Southampton winds downWith Ronald Koeman leaving the club after the 2015-16 season to join Premier League rivals Everton, Saints management were left with the task of finding a new coach.

In stepped Puel on a three-year-deal faced with rebuilding the club after several key departures. Graziano Pellè left for China, Sadio Mané joined Liverpool and Victor Wanyama signed with Tottenham Hotspur, leaving the new manager with a full plate in finding their replacements.

After three seasons of top eight finishes – eighth, seventh then sixth respectively – expectations were high for the French manager and he had a lot to do to prove himself the right man to lead the club. To measure the success of the first year manager, we will look at the signings he has made and his performance in all competitions.

Signings

Puel added four first team regulars to the squad in record-signing Sofiane Boufal, Nathan Redmond, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Manolo Gabbiadini. Looking at them individually, it is a bit of a mixed bag.

On one end of the scale is Gabbiadini, who has been a revelation since his addition in January. The Italian striker came emphatically into English football with six goals in his first five appearances but has been unable to find the net after a few weeks out with injury.

Redmond and Højbjerg have both been solid additions garnering plenty of starting XI action. Both could have provided more for the team from their respective positions but with both still being so young (Redmond 23 years old and Højbjerg 21) a decent Premier League season now is very promising for the future.

The £16 million man Boufal has been the most disappointing of Puel’s signings. Fans were made to wait a month and a half to see the Moroccan’s debut because of injury and since then, he has not been able to nail down a starting spot.

With just two goals from 25 appearances – to be fair many of which were off the bench – there is an opinion that the play maker is yet to show his worth. Overall the squad is not as strong as the one that performed so well last season but the new manager has more or less been able to paper over the cracks and keep a relatively competitive top half team.

Performance – Premier League

Balancing cup competitions, European commitments and domestic league action is no easy task and the latter of these seems to have slipped as a result of the former two for Southampton. Puel’s system of strict rotation between fixtures was heavily criticised and did not allow the team to get any consistency. As a result, the Saints’ form was patchy at best and they entered 2017 in 12th spot on the table.

However, the club has got itself back on track and now is in tough competition with several mid-table clubs in a race to secure eighth spot.

Other competitions

The south coast club endured a disappointing Europa League run, finishing third in the group and failing to progress. The performances were not overly poor but picking up just one point from three away games and drawing at St. Mary’s against Israeli minnows Hapoel Be’er Sheva in a must-win game left a bitter taste in supporters’ mouths.

The club crashed out in the fourth round of the FA Cup, trounced 5-0 by Arsenal but reaching the final of the EFL Cup. The final with Manchester United ended in a controversial 3-2 loss but was ultimately a good showing from the Saints.

Overall

Puel has been reasonably solid in his first season in charge but has certainly not made any lasting impressions yet. It is easy to say, but how the Frenchman will be rated depends so much on whether he manages to snatch away eighth spot from West Bromwich Albion.

If eighth is secured it would be fair to call the season a success given the transition that the club has had to endure both in coach and in playing squad. If Puel fails to rise one more spot before season’s end, he will be responsible for the club’s worst finish in four years and would really be stretching to call the season a positive one.

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by Jackson Delmenico, Twitter: @JayLukeDee
for Outside 90, Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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