Sunday, June 16, 2024

Arne Slot: What can Liverpool fans expect from Jurgen Klopp’s successor?

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If you’re a Liverpool fan, it probably still feels strange, the fact that Jurgen Klopp isn’t your team’s manager anymore. You were probably very emotional after the game on Sunday at Anfield, when the Reds beat Wolverhampton Wanderers in the final round of the Premier League season and Klopp bid everyone in the stadium a warm and fond farewell, taking the opportunity to announce his successor with a song.

The following day, after numerous reports suggested it was close to being done, Liverpool confirmed the appointment of Arne Slot as their new head coach on a three-year contract.

 Who is Arne Slot?

Born in Bergentheim, Netherlands, Slot started his career as a player with PEC Zwolle. He also played for NAC Breda and Sparta Rotterdam, before returning to Zwolle in 2010. Three years later, he hung up his boots and turned to coaching.

As might have been expected, Slot’s first post-playing job was with the Zwolle academy. From there, he moved on to work as assistant manager at Cambuur and later took over the main role. In the summer of 2017, his path took him to AZ Alkmaar, and it was there where his work started attracting the attention of the football public again as the assistant at first to John van den Brom, and later as the head coach. At the moment when the 2019/20 season was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, his team were sharing the top spot in the Eredivisie table with Ajax.

In the summer of 2021, Feyenoord appointed Slot as their head coach and his stock quickly rose at De Kuip. It took him just two seasons to return the Eredivisie title to the club after six years of PSV Eindhoven and Ajax passing it between them, and in the season that has just ended, he added the KVNB Cup to his recently started trophy haul.

And though he didn’t replicate the league success of the previous campaign, the fans and the club saw him off to Liverpool in a warm and respectful way.

The expectations

No one can replace Klopp at Liverpool, that much is perfectly clear, and Slot will surely be looking to beat a path of glory with the six-time European champions in his own way.

It’s hard to know at this point what to expect, but it will probably take some time for the Dutchman to shape the team the way he wants it to look and play. However, the club are said to have done their homework before deciding on him as the man to lead them on into a new era. The team is in a relatively good condition, though a few notable signings will be needed here and there. The transfer rumours have unsurprisingly started already, but we will learn in due course what Liverpool intend to do in the market this summer.

They will probably need a new defensive midfielder, with all due respect to Wataru Endo who, at the age of 31, is their only designated senior player in the role. A long-term successor to Mohamed Salah on the right wing will also likely be on the list as the Egyptian turns 32 in June and enters the final year of contract, but that’s all mere speculation right now.

Realistically speaking, Slot will probably have done well if he leads the team to another top-four finish in his first season at Anfield and leave the title race as a goal for the future, though a decent run in at least one of the English cups wouldn’t go amiss either. Challenges in the Champions League await as well.

Tactical approach

One of the most obvious appeals Liverpool would register with Slot is the fact that like Klopp, he usually arranges his team in a 4-3-3 formation, playing a possession-based game whenever possible, with high pressing focused on winning possession in the opposition half.

In 2021/22, Slot’s first season in charge, Feyenoord finished third in the Eredivisie rankings, then they won the title, and eventually finished runners-up to PSV Eindhoven last week. Over those three campaigns, they were the best in the Dutch top flight in the number of shots taken, high turnovers, number off possessions won in the attacking third of the pitch, number of points gained from losing positions, number of buildup attacks, number of direct attacks, and interestingly enough, the number of clean sheets. Obviously exciting upfront, very tight at the back.

Based on what Klopp’s Liverpool showed down the years, especially in the attacking segments of the game, it’s likely that he won’t have to do much tinkering, though he will want their finishing improved from 2023/24. Working with Darwin Nunez, heavily criticized numerous clear-cut chances, will likely be considered as one of the main priorities. Slot certainly got much from Santiago Gimenez at Feyenoord as the Mexican international scored 49 goals and produced 11 assists from 84 matches for the Dutch club in two seasons, and that will perhaps serve as a sort of a benchmark for Nunez to aim for.

There’s no way to be sure of anything before Slot actually starts leading Liverpool through the 2024/25 season, but everything seems to be pointing at exciting times lying ahead for the Reds.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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