Arne Slot and his Cruyffiola football were always too good for Tottenham; think Arsenal

Andy Bollen
Feyenoord manager Arne Slot celebrates winning the Eredivisie title

Feyenoord’s Arne Slot – this week’s favourite for the Tottenham Hotspur job (the latest list is here) – has ruled himself out.

I never expected him to come to Spurs. To secure the services of the Eredivisie winner Spurs would also have to pay Feyenoord a significant sum. According to Dutch journalist, Marcel van der Kraan, it would take close to £5m to lure him from Feyenoord. Slot had recently signed a five-year deal and his club are prepared to play hardball to keep him at De Kuip – and quite rightly want him to guide them into the Champions League. For now, at least, they’ve had their way.

Slot appears keen to come to English football and if does, we will have Pep Guardiola at City, Erik ten Hag at Manchester United (a coach under Guardiola at Bayern, where he learned about tactics and developed that same meticulous attention to detail) and Mikel Arteta at Arsenal (Pep’s assistant at Man City). Meanwhile, at Liverpool we have Jurgen Klopp, a disciple and fan of a turbo-boosted version of Total Football.

Yet Slot is the most ‘Cruyff like’. There are little tweaks and the concept is ever-evolving, but in general, Slot is closest to Pep in this shared philosophy.

Pep Guardiola is always keen to acknowledge the influence Johan Cruyff has had on his career as a player and then a coach. “The influence of Johan is outstanding, amazing, huge. We tried to follow what he taught us. The best managers win lots of titles by being in a big club with big players. I’m a lucky guy. I’m in Manchester, I’ve been in Munich because of him.” He watched closely, soaking up every aspect of the Dutch Master’s approach – one of domination, pressing and spatial awareness.

We know how football works; our beautiful game mirrors itself. Whether that’s tattoos, hair weaves or big stupid teeth. Thankfully now we have something worth mirroring, a move to the mass Cruyffification of the game.

Despite only coaching for four years with AZ Alkmaar and now Feyenoord, the Dutch football cognoscenti are amazed by Arne Slot. They love the way his side entertain and were even more amazed that he was apparently considering a move to Spurs so early in his career.

Feyenoord are about sheer attacking play; it’s like watching Man City with a bit of Brighton and Brentford thrown in. His side attack in possession and attack the opposition when without the ball.

To play Cruyffiola (that’s mine, a mix between Cruyff and Guardiola) you have to think of the letter P constantly. Possession. Purpose. Position. Passing. All are underpinned by the most crucial aspect – an understanding of space. If you retain the ball and pass it, the opposition move and by doing so, create holes and space. Then if you are up against a wily opponent who are compact and tight, you herd the opponent together like a cattle rustler and quickly push it into the area they are not covering. But always with a sense of purpose. You need to understand all this before we even get to the sweeper-keeper, full-backs who can play as wingers or inside forwards and the false nine.

Attacking. Scoring goals. Shape. That’s Slot.

Spurs fans should honestly be honoured he was even in the frame for the job. Feyenoord fans will be delighted he has chosen to stay. Slot’s approach is attack, attack, attack but Cruyffiola only works well with a fit, powerful and skilful defence. That’s the crucial bit.

As is the magical way with football, irony is at play here. If there is one team Slot would be perfect for it is Arsenal. There is a side who attack with flair and purpose yet when they lose the ball are erratic, without shape and discipline and in the title run-in looked tactically inept.

Like the great philosophers, artists and composers, there is a thread of greatness that weaves through every art form and thus, as Guardiola comes close to transcending his mentor, especially if he wins the Champions League, he too will pass it on. Football is wonderful when played like this and Slot too if he eventually arrives in the Premier League will only add to it. But boy, Feyenoord fans will be delighted he’s staying.

Andy Bollen has written several books about Dutch football but his latest is about the number 10 shirt. Order The Number Ten: More Than a Number, More Than a Shirt here.