Why Arne Slot is the new Jurgen Klopp: Media darling, underdog and pressing obsessive

Will Ford
Slot Klopp Liverpool
Will Arne Slot be the new Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool?

Liverpool fans may be slightly, and understandably, concerned about their club’s imminent appointment of Arne Slot as their new manager.

We’ve got to assume the Dutchman was at best their third choice after Xabi Alonso turned them down and the Ruben Amorim trail went cold after his ill-advised flight to East London.

But for continuity’s sake, the Feyenoord boss may well be the best option for Liverpool. Here are five reasons why Arne Slot is the new Jurgen Klopp.


Mixing it with the Big Boys
Like Klopp, Slot’s playing career bears no comparison to what he’s achieved as a coach. He was a mediocre No. 10 who played for mediocre clubs in PEC Zwolle, NAC Breda and Sparta Rotterdam. As a coach, first at AZ Alkmaar, he picked up more points per game (2.11) than any other coach in the club’s history, finishing top with Ajax in the season cut short by Covid, and earned a move to Feyenoord, a sleeping giant much like Borussia Dortmund before Klopp arrived from Mainz.

Feyenoord had finished fifth the season before Slot joined, but the football was rotten under predecessor Dick Advocaat, there was no money to speak of and having been embarrassed in the Europa League, losing twice to Austria’s Wolfsberger, captain and top scorer Steven Berghuis left for Ajax. It was all very bleak.

Slot revolutionised the playing style (more on that later) in his first season on a shoestring budget; they finished third in the Eredivisie and narrowly lost the Europa Conference League final to Jose Mourinho’s Roma.

In his second season, with a transfer surplus of €40m after Tyrell Malacia and Luis Sinisterra were among the big-name departees in the summer of 2022, Slot took Feyenoord to the title. All of the 17 players that joined ahead of that title-winning season were signed for the same amount Ajax spent to bring in Steven Bergwijn from Tottenham.

It took slow-coach Klopp another season to win the title at Dortmund. But as with Slot at Feyenoord, the German took a historically big club and made them actually big again, spending next to nothing in the process – Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski and Shinji Kagawa were incredibly signed for £8m combined – having had a mid-table side in Mainz, similar to AZ Alkmaar, punching far above their weight beforehand.


A media darling
“He is so similar to Klopp,” Dutch journalist Marcel van der Kraan told the Football Daily Podcast. He’s “charismatic” and “full of energy” on the training field and in press conferences, where journalists appear to have a very similar mindset to when they’re faced with the current Liverpool boss: they really want him to like them.

He’s engaging, polite, smiley and funny. At the end of last season, when linked with the Tottenham job, he was asked about his desire to manage in the Premier League and replied: “I will go over their for the sun.” We didn’t say he was a stand-up comedian, but like Klopp when he’s not banging on about 12.30 kick-offs or insulting reporters over their body mass, Slot enjoys the light-hearted side of things as well as deep dives into specific tactics and the nitty gritty of football management.

The real test of his jovial nature will come in times of adversity, which he’s sure to come across at Anfield but is yet to truly experience in his short managerial career. He may very well turn out to be as prickly as the man he’s set to replace, but we can at least expect a honeymoon period of weather jokes and similarly engaging comedy.

READ MORE: The many times Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has come across as a massive arse


Attackers defending and creating
Slot reportedly played clips of the 2021 Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City in his first team meeting as Feyenoord boss and asked his players why they thought there were so few chances despite the incredible attacking talent on the pitch. The answer was simple: those attackers were defending. And so too is his mantra, shared by Klopp: we defend by attacking.

There are differences in their style. While Liverpool’s tactical identity under Klopp has been built around ‘gegenpressing’, where they hound opponents both when they build up – seeing a poor pass, bad first touch or incorrect positioning as a ‘pressing trigger’ – and immediately after they lose possession, Slot asks his players to press all the time. Exhausting initially, but as evidenced by Feyenoord over the last couple of seasons, they soon get used to it, and it’s mighty effective.

Since Slot was appointed in 2021, according to Opta, Feyenoord have won possession in the final third more than any team in Europe’s top five leagues plus the Eredivisie: 722 times, with Liverpool second at 706. Feyenoord and Liverpool also rank first and second respectively for high turnovers won, with Liverpool first and Feyenoord second for pressed sequences, which is the number of times a team breaks opposition passing sequences at three or fewer passes via a defensive action, within 40 metres of the opposition’s goal.

Feyenoord also rank first for high turnovers resulting in shots with 201; Liverpool are fourth below Bayern Munich (192) and PSV Eindhoven (192) on 184. Slot’s teams, like Klopp’s, win the ball high and make the most of it.


High defensive line
It proved to be a major problem for Liverpool last season because of an ageing midfield unable to press efficiently combined with Virgil van Dijk’s struggles, but when it’s worked it’s really worked. When the Fab Three were in their prime, with Georginio Wijnaldum tearing around after them and Van Dijk an indomitable giant in defence, Liverpool’s high defensive line was brilliant. It’s been very good again this season, and Slot’s Feyenoord operate in a near identical way.

One way of measuring the height or aggression of a team’s defending is start distance, which measures how far upfield a team’s open play sequences start in metres. According to Opta, since 2021 Manchester City rank first across Europe’s top five leagues plus the Eredivisie with a start distance of 45.6 metres, but Feyenoord are second at 44.9m and Liverpool just behind them, literally and metaphorically, at 44.6m.

READ MORE: Why Arne Slot is WORSE than Ten Hag and yet somehow loads better


It’s important to Slot that his teams play good football. He understands the importance of entertaining the fans. “I want as many good football players as possible in the team and I want to make them work as hard as possible,” he said of his philosophy, and Liverpool fans, as well as the wider football public, can rest easy in the knowledge that Slot is as much an admirer of the ding dong battles between the Premier League’s best as anyone. “Manchester City-Liverpool for me is the ultimate game,” he said.

There will be concerns over how Slot deals with bigger names and better players, but Marco van Basten believes that will, if anything, aid the Dutchman in his pursuit of beautiful football at Anfield.

“If you get AZ and Feyenoord to play [good] football, you will also get the big clubs to play [good] football,” Van Basten said. “I think it would only become easier for him because you have better players who understand what you want sooner.”