New Liverpool Manager Profile – Arne Slot

arne slot being interviewed smiling

It was never going to be easy to replace Jürgen Klopp. The former Borussia Dortmund manager arrive at Anfield and told the supporters that we needed to turn from ‘doubters to believers’. It may have taken some a little longer to drink the Kool-Aid than others, but by the time the club reached its second Champions League final in as many years, defeating Tottenham Hotspur to claim Liverpool’s sixth European Cup, most people were very much converts.

A year later and the German had brought the Premier League to the club for the first time since it had been re-branded from the First Division, much to everyone’s joy.

When Klopp announced that he was leaving the club at the end of the 2023-2024 campaign, most people were utterly distraught. Thankfully, Fenway Sports Group had been able to persuade Michael Edwards, considered by many to be the architect of the club’s success in the modern era, back to the organisation as the Director of Football for FSG.

He, in turn, asked Richard Hughes to join the club as the Sporting Director, with the pair crunching the numbers to bring in the most appropriate replacement for Jürgen Klopp, with Arne Slot’s name being the name that the eventually decided upon. The question is, who is the Dutchman?

Slot as a Player

Born in the Dutch village of Bergentheim on the 17th of September 1978, Arend Martijn Slot’s football career started as an amateur player for local side VV Bergentheim. As a teenager, slot moved to FC Zwolle and made it into the first team when he was just 17-years-old. Under the management of Jan Everse, Slot struggled with injury problems and got little playing time as a result.

Eventually, he managed to shake off the injuries enough to establish himself a goal-scoring attacking midfielder, with the club winning the Eerste Divisie in 2002, returning to the Eredivisie for the first time in 13 years as a result.

During the same year, Slot moved to NAC Breda, having scored 50 goals in 164 league games for FC Zwolle. He worked with Henk ten Cate, helping the club to finish fourth in his first season. That was the club’s best league finish since the 1950s, seeing the club, and Slot, play European football in the UEFA Cup.

They lost 6-0 on aggregate to Newcastle United, but Slot’s time at the club overall was a success, scoring 21 goals in 142 league games. In 2007 he made the move to Sparta Rotterdam, remaining at the club for two years and scoring six goals in 54 games. It was a disappointing return that saw him loaned to FC Zwolle for a year.

Back at Zwolle, Slot scored seven times in 28 games, but it wasn’t enough to convince the Sparta Rotterdam hierarchy that he had a future at the club. Instead, he returned to his former club on a permanent basis and in 2012 helped them to once again win the Eerste Divisie and return to the Eredivisie. He had one final season at the top of Dutch football before making the decision to retire as a player.

A former teammate, Edwin de Graaf, said of Slot that he was ‘not so fast’, but he was able to impress as a player thanks to vision and his ability to play a pass. A Student of the game, many thought that Slot was destined for management.

Becoming a Coach

Bram van Polen, a teammate of Slot during his time at Zwolle, said that he had been behaving like a coach during his last couple of years as a player. When he retired from playing in 2013, Slot moved onto the staff at the club and worked with the youth team. After a year, he was offered the role of assistant coach to Henk de Jong at the Dutch club SS Cambuur.

When de Jong left in 2016, Slot remained and worked under the management of Marcel Keizer and Rob Maas. The club finished bottom of the Eredivisie and was relegated to the Eerste Divisie. In the October of 2016, Slot was made the interim coach along with Sipke Hulshoff.

By the January of the following year, the two had done a good enough job to be offered to role on a permanent basis. They saw the club climb up from 14th place to third, only missing out on promotion thanks to a defeat in the play-offs. They reached the semi-final of the KNVB Cup for the first time in the club’s history, knocking out Ajax along the way before losing on penalties to AZ Alkmaar.

Whatever the club had done must have impressed the owners of Alkmaar, however, who offered Slot the role of assistant to John van den Brom, which he duly took up, considering him to be ‘experienced, studious, innovative and ambitious’.

When AZ Alkmaar finished third and fourth in the Eredivise in addition to losing the KNVB Cup final against Feyenoord in 2018, it was decided that Slot should take over the manager’s position from Van den Brom on a full-time basis, starting ahead of the 2019-2020 season. He soon became the first coach to achieve 19 points from his first eight games, reaching the semi-final of the Europa League at the same time.

Sadly for Slot, the Eredivisie decided to cancel the season due to the global health crisis at the time, with the club finishing second behind Ajax on account of goal difference, though no title was awarded.

Joining Feyenoord

arne slot feyenoord manager 2023
Carlo Bruil Fotografie, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

AZ Alkmaar were knocked out of the Champions League in the third qualifying round in the 2020-2021 season, dropping into the Europa League. When they defeated Napoli 1-0 in Italy, Slot referred to it as an ‘historic win for AZ standards’.

Meanwhile, he began negotiating to become the next manager of Feyenoord. On the fifth of December 2020, Alkmaar sacked him, saying that he was not sufficiently focussed on the job and was instead trying to get a new one. AZ were in seventh place at the time, with Slot having achieved a points-per-game ratio of 2.11, which was the highest of any manager in the club’s history.

On the 15th of December 2020, it was announced that Slot would become the new Feyenoord manager ahead of the 2021-2022 campaign. The contract saw him sign for two years, with the club having the option to add a third. Slot was taking over from Dick Advocaat, who who had led the team to a fifth-place finish in the Eredivisie.

Slot was asked to build a team with a recognisable playing style, adding Marino Pušić and Robin van Persie to his staff, retaining John de Wolf as assistant coach. During his first season, Slot led the club to to the round of 16 in the Europa Conference League, the club’s furthest in 20 years.

In the February of 2022, Feyenoord extended Slot’s contract, which was a sign of how pleased they were with his performance. In the Europa Conference League, Partizan, Slavia Prague and Marseille were dispatched with as the club reached the final, where they would play against José Mourinho’s Roma. They lost 1-0, but finished third in the Eredivisie, seeing Slot awarded the Manager of the Year award.

His contract was extended again before the start of the 2022-2023 campaign, giving him confidence in his position. In the Europa League, Feyenoord qualified for the knockout stages and defeated Shakhtar Donetsk 7-1.

Winning the Title & Catching Liverpool’s Eye

Having achieved the club’s biggest win in European football since 1995, Slot overtook both Ernst Happel and Bert van Marwijk as the first Feyenoord manager to win 15 European matches at the club. More importantly, his second season ended up with Feyenoord as the Eredivisie champions for the first time since 2017. It was the 16th title in the club’s history, resulting in Tottenham Hotspur looking to bring him to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as the club’s new manager.

At the end of May 2023, however, Slot confirmed that he would remain at Feyenoord and extend his contract to the middle of 2026.

He was named the Manager of the Year for the second consecutive occasion in the June of 2023, becoming just the fourth coach to win the award after Guus Hiddink, Frank de Boer and Erik ten Hag. Feyenoord were knocked out of the 2023-2024 Champions League at the group stage, finishing third behind Atlético Madrid and Lazio, dropping into the Europa League.

The club was knocked out of the competition for the third consecutive season by Roma, losing on penalties in the play-off match. The season wasn’t a complete disaster, however; on the 21st of April, Feyenoord defeated NEC to win the KNVB Cup for the 14th time in their history.

Many pundits consider Slot to be the finest coach in the history of Feyenoord. His method of coaching is such that he looks to offer attractive football whilst also improving players. It was likely to be those qualities that attracted Liverpool to him as a possible replacement for Jürgen Klopp. When the news emerged, Ajax fans called it ‘the best news of the year’, desperate as they were to see the back of him, having seen their club lose 4-0 at home and 6-0 away against the Dutch rivals.

The success he achieved was done with little major spending, which will have appealed to the FSG hierarchy, whilst his style of play means that major changes to the playing squad won’t be needed.

There is a feeling amongst some that there is a direct line between Arne Slot and Jürgen Klopp. He is seen as ‘an overachiever who can spark a revolution’.  Many will be hoping the results will follow quickly but what we know about LFC fans is they will give him time and won’t expect Liverpool live scores to instantly be all wins.

Intelligent and relying on high pressing and attacking football, he surrounds himself with skilled assistants who can help him fill in his weaknesses. A perfectionist ‘control freak’, he has put together a library of ‘interesting things’ from football as he looks to widen his horizons whenever possible. Speaking about his footballing philosophy, he said:

“I want as many good football players as possible in the team and I want to make them work as hard as possible. I believe that when we work to perfect our habits every day, we have more chance to cut out luck.”

That may well be exactly what Liverpool fans needed to hear.

Jurgen Klopp Manager

Danke Schön, Jürgen

There was a period during his time as manager when Liverpool won 106 points from a possible 108. That is absolutely incredible. Not even Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side, with the asterisk against their name, have achieved that. It was a managerial feat the likes of which we’ll never see again. Reminder that Klopp delivered […]

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