Saturday, May 25, 2024

Arne Slot on verge of succeeding Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool: Everything to know about Reds possible new manager

Arne Slot seems set to replace Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager after an agreement was reached between Feyenoord and the Reds regarding the highly regarded tactician. Klopp announced back in January that he would be leaving Anfield at the end of the 2023-24 season and the Premier League giants are now closing in on the German’s replacement in Slot who will join this summer.

“The only thing I can say about it is that the clubs are in negotiations,” Slot told ESPN Netherlands before Feyenoord’s 3-1 win away at Go Ahead Eagles earlier this week. “The clubs have to do their job. And then I am in the waiting room and as the ‘main character,’ I have to respect that. It will undoubtedly become clear in the coming days. It seems clear to me that I would like to go to Liverpool,” he added. “Now I am waiting to see whether the clubs reach an agreement. I am very confident in that.”

The 45-year-old’s confidence was justified as Feyenoord and Liverpool reportedly agreed terms over an initial compensation package little over 24 hours later — a $9.6 million deal which could rise by $2.1 million with add-ons. The Reds now need to agree contractual terms and backroom staff appointments with the former AZ Alkmaar and SC Cambuur boss before an official announcement of any sort can be made by either side.

So, to the major questions regarding Liverpool’s chosen candidate.

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Who is Arne Slot?

A midfielder during his playing days, Slot’s career exclusively stayed within the borders of the Netherlands with more than 100 outings with both PEC Zwolle and NAC Breda before a staff role with the former upon retirement. From there, the Bergentheim native moved to Cambuur as an assistant manager which ended up being a first senior managerial stint as part of an interim job share with Sipke Hulshoff which saw the team narrowly miss out on promotion to the Eredivisie but also impress in the 2016-17 KNVB Cup including the elimination of titleholders AFC Ajax.

Cambuur went out on penalties to AZ but the Cheese Farmers had seen enough from Slot to make him John van den Brom’s assistant in 2017. AZ finished third and fourth in the Eredivisie over the next two years before Slot took over for the 2019-20 season. After a fast start domestically, the team reached the round of 32 in the UEFA Europa League but came second to Ajax in the Dutch topflight based on goal difference because of the COVID-impacted finish to the term. Despite a 1-0 win over SSC Napoli in the 2020-21 UEL group stage, Slot was sacked in December of 2020 for having agreed to take over as Feyenoord boss. He left AZ seventh in the Eredivisie but with an average of 2.11 points per game — the best ratio of any head coach in the club’s history.

What did Slot do with Feyenoord?

Slot did indeed take over as Feyenoord boss for the 2021-22 season and his impact at De Kuip was nothing short of seismic. In his first season, The Club On The Meuse posted a 20-year best European showing by reaching the first-ever UEFA Europa Conference League final which they lost 1-0 to AS Roma having seen off the likes of Olympique de Marseille to get there. Feyenoord also improved from fifth in the Dutch topflight to third which saw Slot named manager of the year.

However, it was the 2022-23 campaign which really made his name as Feyenoord won their first Eredivisie title since 2017 and the 16th of the club’s history as well as reaching the Europa League quarterfinals — again falling to Jose Mourinho’s Roma — and the KNVB Cup semifinals. Slot’s star was well and truly rising by this time and his contract had been extended which did not stop Tottenham Hotspur from taking a look in 2023. He ultimately opted to stay with his extended deal and although he is unlikely to be defending the Eredivisie title ahead of PSV Eindhoven and saw his side fall to Roma on the continental scenes for a third consecutive year in the UEL knockout round playoffs, Slot did get his hands on the KNVB Cup — the club’s 14th — earlier this month.

How does Slot set his teams up?

The transition between Klopp and Slot is unlikely to be as extreme as some other handovers have been in the past and the Dutchman’s forward-thinking style and personal touch made him the obvious choice for the Anfield gig according to former Liverpool and Feyenoord player Dirk Kuyt: “His style of play is exactly what Liverpool supporters love to see at Anfield,” said the ex-Oranje man to The Athletic. “He is also good with the media because he explains himself very clearly. As Feyenoord have so many foreign players, he conducts his meetings in English so there will be no issues over language. He knows exactly what he wants and he believes in it. It is attractive, attacking football. He likes to play an aggressive defense, high intensity, with the game played in the opponent’s half, but it is his way. It is different from Klopp but a lot of the principles are the same.” Even Klopp himself appears to endorse the choice: “I like the way his team play football,” said the German earlier this week. “All the things I hear about him as a guy say he is a good guy.”

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Which players have flourished under Slot?

The obvious names to have benefitted under Slot which will be familiar to Premier League fans are the likes of Luis Sinisterra, Tyrell Malacia, Marcos Senesi, Fredrik Aursnes and Orkun Kokcu. However, Kuyt believes that Slot’s value should not be measured simply in terms of the players who have grown in value since playing for him: “What struck me about Arne was his ability to make the players believe in what he believes in,” he said. “I talked to some of them when I was there and they all spoke so highly about him. They love how he organizes the training sessions and how he gets his ideas across. He is an excellent communicator and man manager. Watching Feyenoord in recent years, you can see his signature on the team in how he wants football to be played. Everyone bought into his vision. He gets the best out of people.

“The job he took on after arriving from AZ in 2021 was not an easy one,” added Kuyt. “Some questioned whether he was the right man because he had not previously trained a top Dutch team, but Feyenoord finished third and reached the final of the Europa Conference League, where they lost narrowly to Jose Mourinho’s Roma. Before his second season, he lost a lot of key players. Arne effectively had to build a new side. People doubted the new players who arrived and said he would need time to get things right, but he proved them wrong. Outperforming Ajax and PSV to become champions was unbelievable because nobody expected that at the start of the season.”

What happened with Amorim?

From the moment that Klopp made his intentions clear, Liverpool targeted former player Xabi Alonso who has since led Bayer Leverkusen to their first ever Bundesliga title and knocked Bayern Munich off of their perch at the summit of German soccer. The Spaniard is not done there and could yet lead Die Werkself to Europa League and DFB Pokal success for an incredible treble, but he ruled himself out of the running for an Anfield return in March before the German title was even sewn up. It was then the turn of Sporting CP’s Ruben Amorim who has since been linked with West Ham United but Slot emerged as the frontrunner and is now set to succeed Klopp who has been in place since 2015.

How could Slot suit Liverpool?

Importantly, Slot appears to be cut from similar cloth to Klopp which will be music to the ears of Liverpool fans although the German will be an extremely difficult act to follow. Kuyt believes that the doubters could be made to eat their words, though: “He is ready for the next step in his career. The doubters will say, ‘But Arne Slot has never trained a foreign team,’ but we know how successful Jurgen proved to be and he had not coached outside his homeland before he came to Liverpool. You cannot compare Feyenoord with Liverpool but Arne is used to dealing with pressure and high expectations. When he has been faced with difficult situations, when results did not work out, when he was faced with difficult questions from the media, he always stayed in control and stuck to his principles and the vision of how he wanted to play.

“Arne loves the game and thinks about football 24/7,” added Kuyt. “That passion shines through when he speaks. He is always studying other teams and thinking about how his team can improve and evolve. Tactically, he is very strong. What people like most in the Netherlands is that he has his own vision, his style of play. Nowadays managers always get compared. Is it the Klopp style? Is it the Mourinho style? Is it the Guardiola style? The answer is that Slot has his own style. He does nEveryot copy anyone.”

Is Slot Klopp succession material?

Following in Klopp’s footsteps will be extremely hard for anybody as was the case with Sir Alex Ferguson at United and Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Klopp himself has had no role in picking his own replacement but did publicly suggest that Slot was a choice that he could get behind — especially stylistically: “I like that a lot — good guy, good coach and looking forward for the club if he is the solution,” said the German. “I am more than happy, it sounds all really good. Best job in the world, best club in the world.” Harnessing the Anfield crowd will be a challenge but Kuyt has experienced it as well as Feyenoord’s De Kuip and he believes that Slot will be a success: “At Feyenoord, he s loved by the fans,” he said. “They do not want to lose him and it will be sad to see him leave — but from my perspective, if he has to go anywhere, I am happy that it is to Liverpool. He is not only a very good manager, but also a very good human being.”

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