French Face Off: Claude Puel vs Arsene Wenger

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 27 January 2017, 10:48

The Premier League's two French managers, Claude Puel and Arsene Wenger, clash in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday in an eagerly anticipated duel between Southampton and Arsenal.

Andy Dillon (andydillon70) takes a look at the contrasting characters of the duo.

BOTH are French and manage Premier League clubs with a thirst for success.

But one has a nasty habit of taking defeat or even a hard fought victory like a spoiled child while the other is about as colourful as tap water.

The contrasts between Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Southampton’s Claude Puel could not be greater in an interesting week for both men.

Wenger finds out today (Friday) whether his hot-temper and petulant past is going to catch up with him and The FA will finally turn its back on him.

Shoving a fourth official and swearing at him is unacceptable. Even Wenger admitted so in the aftermath.

It’s not the first time either - not even this season as he did a similar thing against Stoke only last October. He is a grumpy old man alright.

Meanwhile just 48 hours ago, nice guy Puel reached a major Wembley final in his debut season as a Premier League boss.

But here’s the dilemma.

What do we really want from our managers?

A surly, sometimes arrogant patronising professorial type who quietly looks down his nose at us but who built the most attractive team in the land while producing spellbinding entertainment through his players and his one-eyed rants?

Or a one-dimensional, whispering type who would struggle to be heard in a library? A coach who fills his squad with effective, one-dimensional players who put in a shift and are well organised but lack any kind of sparkle?

The answer may be in the fact that on Wednesday night Puel finally exhibited a crumb of emotion with a double fist clench as Southampton reached the EFL Cup final (see video below). It’s a commendable achievement in his first year as a Premier League boss without doubt.

Today (Friday), Wenger will learn his fate from the authorities for his push on fourth official Anthony Trailer in a match Arsenal won 2-1 against Burnley last Sunday.

That’s the price you pay for having a hot head in charge who really can’t accept not getting his own way. A man who is losing none of his youthful impudence despite being 67.

However, putting aside all the paper qualifications and achievements in football I’d still prefer to have Arsene Wenger leading my team than Claude Puel. Quiet men don’t ignite the fires of imagination. They don’t lead from the front or inspire terrace chants or a siege mentality within a club that can often be the catalyst for glory.

Unless Puel is keeping something special hidden in his locker, he really is the silent type.

Only this week he told journalists that he did shout ‘once’ this season:

‘In the dressing room after a bad performance but I want to keep that between me and the players’.

He then went on to stress how it is imperative for managers to remain in control ‘at all times’.

No it isn’t. This is professional football in the most popular league on Earth.

Everyone around the world is watching it to see flying tackles, 100mph runs, crazy moments and managers losing the plot just as Wenger did last weekend.

Yeh, sure he should cop a ban for his latest childish outburst but let’s not discourage temper tantrums entirely - English football needs controversial characters to survive.


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