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Transfer Rater: Paco Alcacer to Southampton

Football Whispers
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 By Alex Crook

Southampton grew tired of dour Claude Puel and had to act decisively

Claude Puel has been sacked as Southampton manager.

Southampton executive director Les Reed has rightly been applauded for the way he has guided the club out of troubled waters to become one of the Premier League's most upwardly mobile clubs.

After all, there are not many sides who could have recovered from losing two managers of the calibre of Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman plus a host of star players and still continue to make forward strides.

But the sacking of Claude Puel after less than a year in charge was a very public admission Reed got it wrong when he made the left-field decision to hire him last summer. 

Even the timing of the confirmation of football's worst kept secret -- via a 10pm press release on Wednesday night -- smacked as a thinly veiled attempt to hide Saints' embarrassment and minimise media attention.

Reed, leading the search for Southampton's third boss in a little over three years, overlooked more established and high-profile names including Premier League title winner Manuel Pellegrini in favour of the unfashionable Frenchman.

At the time it was considered a calculated risk. Now, 12 months on, and having been forced to pay off the remaining two years of Puel's contract, it looks a very costly error.

Even when he was unveiled promising to deliver Champions League football to the south coast, there were nagging concerns from the Saints board about Puel's playing style and public image.

That is part of the reason it took so long for the former Lille and Nice coach to be appointed following Koeman's shock departure to Everton last summer.

Those doubts have proved well founded and despite finishing a creditable eighth place in his sole season in charge and reaching the EFL Cup final, Southampton had little choice but to relieve Puel of his duties.

Vilified by large sections of the St Mary's fan-base over his negative tactics and struggling to command respect in a frustrated dressing room, Puel was a dead man walking for the final weeks of the season.

It is no coincidence Saints managed just one win from their last eight games of a campaign which saw them end up as little as six points off 17th place.

In the days when player power reigns supreme, Puel's men simply gave up the ghost, knowing it was unlikely he would be there to greet them for the start of preseason training.

Thomas Tuchel, sacked by Borussia Dortmund, has emerged as an early contender for Claude Puel's job.

A run of five home matches without scoring as the season faded into nothingness tells its own sorry story and in the end, Puel's constant tinkering with his lineup and bland training regime bored his players into submission.

That is why Reed has to be brave with his next appointment. Part of the appeal with Puel was that he was happy to follow boardroom orders without any fuss, the complete contrast to Koeman, whose relationship with Reed was at breaking point by the time he took leave for Merseyside.

After the turbulent nature of the final months of Koeman's two-year stint in charge, underpinned by fractions over the Dutchman's reluctance to blood young players, Reed was more than happy to play it safe, knowing Puel would not question his recruitment policy and give those academy lads a first-team chance if instructed to do so.

But that cautious approach backfired as Southampton fans, used to seeing entertaining if not always winning football from the glory days of Kevin Keegan and Matt Le Tissier, were starved of any flair or excitement.

So, gambling on another yes man is not an option this time around.

Thomas Tuchel, the man the fans want, would seem the perfect fit. He's renowned for an attractive brand of football and building his teams around young talent.

Landing the former Borussia Dortmund coach would also be a major coup and for Reed as he looks to rebuild his partially tainted reputation.

Alex Crook is ESPN FC's Southampton blogger. Follow him on Twitter @alex_crook

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