Claude Puel has taken Southampton backwards this season

Claude Puel has taken Southampton backwards this season and wasted any feel good factor the club had over the past couple of years.

Many were surprised to see Puel chosen as the man to replace Ronald Koeman after the Dutchman walked out to join Everton. A relatively unknown coach over here and not the big name many Southampton fans were hoping for to build on their impressive 6th place finish in 2015/16. Not many managers inherit a football club on such a high, given that most walk into a dressing room void of any confidence, half way through a season, as the club has just sacked the previous man in charge.

The Frenchman had a whole pre-season to bring in the players he wanted, to either develop a new style of play or to continue playing in the successful continental manner Southampton have enjoyed since Mauricio Pochettino replaced Nigel Adkins in 2013.

Looking at the performances so far this season he hasn’t really done one or the other. Any changes he has made have been small and detrimental to the team and players. For e.g. the first month or so he insisted on playing a natural wide player, like Nathan Redmond or Dusan Tadic, as the central striker of a front three with natural centre-forwards mainly played in the wide positions. It just didn’t make sense and now the players are suffering from it.

The Premier League 10 Best Goalkeepers

“He has come a long way from the skinny kid who couldn’t deal with crosses that landed on these shores in 2011.”

There have never been so many top goalkeepers in The Premier League as there is now. We may not have the phenomenon of Buffon or the enigma that is Neuer but we have some crackers. The question is though, who is the best?

Here are my 10 best goalkeepers in the Premier League.

10. Ben Foster – West Brom

Not the most commanding of goalkeepers. You would think a team like West Brom with all the giants they have throughout their side, would have a beast of a goalkeeper. Foster is a great shot stopper on his day but can make the odd horrendous mistake. His opportunity at Manchester Utd was criminally wasted as he was swiftly moved on and succumbed to mid-table obscurity. He was outstanding at White Hart Lane recently but still had 4 goals past him so no one will really remember. The life of a goalkeeper.

9. Jordan Pickford – Sunderland

Pickford has proved himself to be a top-class shot-stopper this season. You have to be to play for Sunderland, let’s face it. His injury has been a massive blow for the perennial relegation battling north-east side. If they stood any chance of another great escape this season, then they needed this lad between the sticks to dig them out some precious points.

8. Kasper Schmeichel – Leicester City

Ask me to make this list last season and Schmeichel would be right at the top end. This season has been a spectacular fall from grace matching that of his club. To be fair to Kasper he has had an injury which has kept him out for a long period but even before this, he wasn’t as commanding as he was last season. Nowhere near in fact. The main reason he even makes this list is the Champions League performances shouldn’t be ignored. Leicester qualified after they conceded ZERO goals from the first 4 games. Impressive.

7. Fraser Forster – Southampton

If I was compiling this list at the start of the season Forster would be higher up, perhaps much higher up. His form over the last few months, however, has taken a startling downturn. The Saints fans on a weekly basis would sing “England’s No.1” but this chant hasn’t been heard in a long time. Perhaps the unbelievable EFL Cup campaign where Saints and Forster haven’t conceded a single goal on their route to the final will inject the 6″7 Geordie with some much-needed confidence. Plus bring back those chants!

6. Tom Heaton – Burnley

What a season Burnley are having in their return to the big league. Well, in home games that is. Away from Turf Moor, it’s not so rosy but a lot of their good work comes from the fact they have a solid base starting with Captain Tom Heaton. At a club like Burnley, you know you are going to be tested as a goalkeeper. Heaton is passing this test with flying colours. The Lancashire side has avoided relegation by being rock solid at home with many clean sheets from Heaton.

5. Jack Butland – Stoke

To complete a trio of England keepers back to back, Jack Butland is this countries Butlandbrightest hope to take over from Joe Hart. The sooner the better. He is extremely unfortunate to have been out all season so far as he had a spectacular 2015/16, where he won Stoke’s player of the year award and made huge strides at International level. To be No.5 on the list may seem generous given he hasn’t played yet this season but in fairness, it can also be seen as harsh as he could easily be in the top 3 if he had the chance to carry on his impressive form and development from last year. Let’s all hope for a speedy recovery and he can grab the England No.1 shirt off that Head & Shoulders enthusiast for good.

4. Petr Cech – Arsenal

Still a top keeper but his powers have undeniably diminished over the past couple of years. He still has a presence about him but he allows shots to go past him into his net that a Petr Cech in his peak simply wouldn’t do. He is a Premier League legend and now has the all-time record of 170 clean sheets to himself. However, the word legend is very apt. He is aged 34 now, which isn’t exactly ‘old’ for a keeper, but he is without doubt past his peak and his standards are slowly dropping with every season that goes by.

Tall, safe handling, good distribution and a solid shot stopper. An all round quality goalkeeper. The type that helps you win a record breaking 13 games in a row with only 4 goals conceded and TEN clean sheets within that run. The Belgian is set to smash the all-time Premier League record of 21 clean sheets in a season as he currently has 13 in just 22 games. Chelsea’s unbelievable run isn’t all down to him obviously, as the 3 man defence in front of him, along with wing backs and 2 holding midfielders have aided his record considerably. When Courtois has been tested at times this season he hasn’t looked entirely rock solid. The Spurs defeat is a standout moment as he seemed to be afraid of the ball as Dele Alli headed it past him. Was very strange to see

2. Hugo Lloris – Spurs

Very unfortunate to not be No.1 on this list but he does make the odd horrendous blunder. He made two in the same game at Man City which you hardly see from the man who is No.1 further down this page. No doubt though the Frenchman is one of the best keepers in the world and a big reason why Spurs have gone from top 4 dreamers to title challengers in a very short period of time. He is easily the best player the North London club have ever had in goal since the Premier League began, although this isn’t saying much as they have had some shockers. Kasey Keller, really? He has admirers all around the world and it’s a big statement from Spurs that he is totally committed to them, for the near future at least.

1.David De Gea – Man Utd

It just had to be De Gea for No.1. It’s pretty astonishing that he is even still in the Premier League as Real Madrid were more than close to taking him away last year. We are all grateful that they didn’t. Many would say he is the best in the world, that argument is up for debate as Manuel Neuer may have something to say about that, but no one can doubt the Spanish international’s abilities. He is an unbelievable shot stopper and adds countless points onto Man Utd’s Premier League total by saving them time and time again. What really sets him apart is De Gea makes seemingly impossible saves. How many times have we seen him claw a shot destined for the top corner away from goal? No one does it better. He has come a long way from the skinny kid who couldn’t deal with crosses that landed on these shores in 2011.