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Arne Slot: Jurgen Klopp’s Heavy Metal Dutch Replacement

Arne Slot is now set to become the next manager of Liverpool Football Club, possibly replacing the iconic Jurgen Klopp at the end of a season where Liverpool still have the chance of saying a fairytale goodbye. The Red’s sit second in the Premier League table, three points behind leaders Arsenal with a game in hand, and Jurgen still has the Anfield faithful dreaming, even in his final days.

David Ornstein reported last week that Michael Edwards, who returned to Liverpool recently, along with former Bournemouth sporting director Richard Hughes, would not hesitate to appoint someone who possibly goes against the idea of what the mainstream media sees for the next Liverpool manager. Ruben Amorim’s name is now a distant memory, still closer than that of the appointment every Liverpool fan wanted two months ago, in the shape of Bayer Leverkusen manager Xabi Alonso.

Another Erik ten Hag?

The perception of Erik ten Hag’s time at Manchester United may do some damage to the credentials of Arne Slot taking over at Anfield, but the truth of the matter is that the Feyenoord coach is coming into a much better structure than the one Ten Hag inherited at Manchester United. The current Liverpool side is also arguably a better team than United’s last year and has proven over 34 games this season they can compete with the very best in the division.

There is a belief, however, that although Slot still has a lot to learn when it comes to having a top mentality, he will eventually prove to be a better coach than Erik ten Hag. Slot is viewed as a top tactician in Holland and someone who could have the credentials to challenge Pep Guardiola with the resources he is expected to have access to at Anfield, should a deal be agreed. Slot, like Ten Hag, is a workaholic, but he’s viewed as more insightful tactically than the man in charge at Manchester United.

Slot’s Liverpool:

An interesting graphic released by Squawka earlier today revealed that Slot’s Feyenoord and Liverpool have won possession of the ball more than any other side since he took over in July 2021. They have also both won exactly the same amount of points from losing positions (62). Michael Edwards will no doubt have been aware of some of these similarities due to his data-driven way of analysing football behind the scenes. Edwards will have crunched the numbers to find a match stylistically similar to what this current Liverpool team is trying to achieve, to try and maximise their potential going forward despite changing the man in the dugout.

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One interesting point regarding Slot is the amount of control he has regarding transfers at Feyenoord. The Dutchman has a major say in who comes into the club and who leaves, with many believing he has too much input. This level of authority has proven to be an issue in the past at Liverpool, with Klopp and Edwards previously falling out over disagreements with players. I spoke to Feyenoord Transfermarkt on Twitter, who detailed some of the concerns regarding the manager’s huge voice in the recruitment department at the club, which has been something Erik ten Hag has been heavily criticised for since joining Manchester United.

There have been good transfer windows under the manager, and he has fought for the title in the past during his time at Alkmaar while fighting against Ajax on a significantly lower budget. This was highlighted by the brilliant Fathalli Mohamed on X, who has done an in-depth thread on Slot that deserves some serious commendation.

Some at Feyenoord, however, believe that Slot has too much control at present at the club, which could make for an interesting dynamic with Edwards when the time comes at Liverpool.

Slot Ball?

In regards to his preparation, Slot is second to none. His sides play attacking, brave, front-footed, confident football. They put teams under pressure and like to trap them in their own half. He is viewed amongst the fans at Feyenoord as the best manager in the club’s history, coming in alongside the likes of Richard Domhi and Ernst Happel, as the true top trainers.

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The 45-year-old is stubborn, which is a common trait among Dutch coaches. He does not like to admit his own mistakes, but he is intelligent when it comes to playing the media. This will be a skill that’s likely to stand to him when it comes to the Liverpool job, with the English media being one of the most brutal forces on the planet when a new manager comes into the country. Especially at one of the biggest clubs.

Slot likes to build in a 2-4 formation, with one full-back holding width, usually the left-full-back, and one inverting central to aid the buildup. The two midfielders like to drop into the four, with one pushing a bit further on at times. The two centre-backs he deploys at Feyenoord are comfortable in possession, and his team utilises a lot of line-breaking passes to try and break down the opposition press. This means the centre-forward will drop as deep as the halfway line, with the wingers doing similar to try and get the team up the pitch once they break through whichever line of press the team they’re playing is deploying.

The pressing is a mix between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2, with the ten at times pushing into the front two and the winger dropping back into the four and the three, depending on the game state at that given moment. The side allows just 10.2 passes per defensive action, the second-best record for this statistic in the entire Eredivisie.

In regards to how his side’s pressing can translate into goals, Fathalli’s thread details that Slot’s Feyenoord have scored 11 goals from 344 turnovers of the ball, the most in the league this season. The biggest criticism Erik ten Hag has come under is how the high pressing system at Manchester United can be bypassed so easily, but Liverpool are extremely unlikely to succumb to the same issues under their new Dutch head coach.

Feyenoord sit in a 5-2-3 or a 5-4-1 mid-block at times out of possession, which is a system that has allowed them to have the second lowest xG against in the Dutch League so far this campaign. A startling difference from Manchester United, who are close to conceding the second most shots in a season in the history of the Premier League.

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Control is the aim of the game for Arne, which is something the current Liverpool side have lacked under Jurgen Klopp in their last two seasons. Slot doesn’t like to compare himself to Guardiola, but he has previously noted the similarities between him and the man he’s anticipated to rival for the Premier League title next season, labelling himself a “control freak” in the same manner as the Spaniard.

“I don’t want to compare myself with Pep at all, but he’s a control freak just like me,” 

“If I look at myself, I want to win a match during the week before kick-off. I try to imprint the chosen tactic to my players as much as I can.”

Arne Slot

Feyenoord have the second highest average possession in the Dutch League this season with 61.7%; this has gone up nearly three percent from last season, when they won the league by 82 points, losing just two games. They have lost just four of their last 65 league games, scoring 161 goals and conceding just 54 goals in that period.

It would be unfair to speak about Slot without mentioning his previous endeavours in management. Slot was in charge of AZ Alkmaar for 58 games prior to taking over at Feyenoord in July 2021, and was averaging 1.93 points per game at the Dutch club. Alkmaar were level on points with Ajax on 56 points after 25 games when the Eredivisie was cancelled during the COVID season, but failed to see out the following season after being sacked in December. The former Cambuur assistant manager was sacked due to the fact he had gone behind the back of the Cheese Farmers and was in negotiations to take over at Feyenoord at the end of the campaign following the dismissal of Dick Advocaat.

Sure enough, Slot agreed to join Feyenoord ten days later, and became their manager at the end of the season.

It’s a gamble to take over from a manager as admired and adored as Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, and Slot will no doubt be aware of the risks he’s taking by saying yes to the post at Anfield. English football does not afford the same luxuries and time at the helm to transform things as some other leagues, and the Liverpool post was a hotbed before Klopp came in, with Kenny Dalglish, Brendan Rodgers, and Rafa Benitez all finding that out the hard way.

Liverpool will have done their due diligence in the hiring process, but you can never predict exactly how things are going to go. Slot has now been confirmed as the new man to ring in a new era on the Red Side of Merseyside, and the fans will be hoping it’s as successful and fruitful as the last.

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