It was also just before Ben Chilwell made his full international debut. The 21 year old proved him absolutely right, putting in a performance of genuine quality that saw him named man of the match by multiple news outlets, including BBC and Sky Sports. He followed that up with an equally competent display in a win a over Spain, where the Three Lions were under siege for the last 60 minutes.
Chilwell has had a good game I think. For a man who making his debut, I think he’s been excellent. I was happy with the back four, the way they played. He looked like he’d had 10 to 12 caps - former England captain Terry Butcher
Honestly, his form over the weekend was just a continuation of what we’ve seen from him all season. He’s been among the team’s top performers every week, seeming to have greatly improved his play at both ends of the pitch.
Chilwell obviously deserves the praise for his own play, but it’s time to start giving Claude Puel his due.
The former Southampton boss was brought in (here and on the south coast) for his ability to develop young talent. He wasted no time, quickly bringing the likes of Chilwell and Demarai Gray into the first team, and is now seeing that pay off.
Before his first England start, a chart to look at how Ben Chilwell has established himself as a Leicester City regular in the past year. pic.twitter.com/X3b0iZOuum— George Ball (@GeorgeBall95) October 12, 2018
It might seem odd to lavish so much praise for the development of the young left back; he’s been the most promising young prospect at the club for years now, chased by some of the biggest teams in the country for his sky high potential. You could argue Puel was just in the right place at the right time. You could, but it would be entirely revisionist history.
Just five games into his tenure, Puel made the decision to take his young left back, whose play time had always been patchy, and make him the first choice over Christian Fuchs. He stuck with it pretty consistently throughout the season, finally giving the young man the consistency and faith he needed to improve.
And he was absolutely panned for it.
1 reason why I want #Puelout is that if he thinks Chilwell is better than Fuchs then the boy hasn’t got a clue about everything else about team selection/tactics/team motivation & talks at press conferences!! End off, turn your office lights out on your way out!! #clueless #lcfc— Mark Walker (@Wacky1Walker) April 28, 2018
Fans hated it. Fuchs was one of the club’s most consistent performers, ever since he stepped into a bad defence and helped turn them into title winners. Why throw that away for this occasionally fantastic, sometimes calamitous young man? He simply wasn't the better footballer. He was also 20, and Fuchs 31.
Turning over this old squad was always going to be such a thankless job. The old players won us a Premier League. They weren't going to do it again, I think we all knew, but god it’s hard to forget that when evaluating them. Puel showed early that he didn't mind how much the fans hated him, he’s going to make decisions he thinks are in the best long term interest of the team.
So he took the plunge and put his faith in a young defender, which is never a good move as far as job security goes. No other 21 year old defender has played every minute this year. Nor has any 22 year old.
We’ve all seen now that he was right, so it’s time to put our faith in him. Why oh why are we persisting in Daniel Amartey, when we all know Danny Simpson is the better defender? Why was Demarai Gray playing every week, why does Iheanacho have more minutes than any other forward this year?
Claude Puel thinks it’s the best decision for the future of the team. 23 year old Amartey is the oldest of that bunch, with almost no experience at the position, and look how quickly he’s come on this year. He looks like a genuine right back to me now.
Even still, if some papers are to be believed, the pressure is still on Puel. He needs results in the short term if he wants to keep building. Why? Every other manager we’ve had got more rope through much worse spells.
It takes all sorts to develop a young team. You need the scouts that can identify an Ndidi or a Maddison, a great youth set up that can bring through the likes of Chilwell, and you need excellent coaching.
None of that matters at all if you don’t have a manager with the mental fortitude to pick them, and stick with them through the lean weeks.
Quiet Claude has shown he has that, and that he can pick the right ones to trust. It’s time for the fans angry at 10th place (no, I don’t understand them) to give it a rest and give Puel some time. It doesn’t take one year to build a team.
Maybe I’m wrong, but like Claude, I’d rather take my gamble by building for the long term.