Why Arne Slot: Liverpool’s belief they have struck gold in ‘challenging market’

It is interesting that senior figures at Liverpool FC are more than happy to acknowledge that they have been forced into what they deem a ‘challenging market’ for managers by Jurgen Klopp‘s departure.

These difficult conditions are borne out by Barcelona’s U-turn on Xavi, Bayern Munich’s unedifying flailing from one target to the next, and the fact that Manchester United are considering sticking with Erik Ten Hag.

And yet for all that this has been said to be a tricky search for Klopp’s replacement, the Reds are fully convinced they struck on managerial gold in the form of Arne Slot.

A brief look at the Dutchman’s career so far provides enough evidence that at least some level of optimism is justified.

At AZ Alkmaar, Slot posted the highest points per game ratio of any manager in the club’s history, and was putting together an unlikely title challenge before the 2019/20 season was brought to an early end by coronavirus.

Arne Slot and Sipke Hulshoff (Alamy Images)

Then, he led Feyenoord to one of just two titles they have won in the last 25 years, a Dutch Cup, and an appearance in the Europa Conference League final.

These achievements have seen Slot pick up the Rinus Michels award for the best coach in the Netherlands in each of the last two campaigns.

Yet silverware and individual prizes alone would not have been sufficient to convince Liverpool that this was their next manager.

The Reds’ data team famously used advanced analytics to prove that Klopp’s poor final season in charge of Borussia Dortmund was a freak occurrence that could be discounted from any assessment of his merits.

And there is a famous story about then-sporting director Michael Edwards effectively stalking the German to try and find out if he would be a good cultural fit at Anfield before settling on his appointment.

The success of that fastidious approach means that a similar level of attention to detail has been paid to both the data and character references this time around.

Arne Slot is remaining in the Netherlands (Richard Sellers/PA)

On this occasion, Liverpool’s background checks showed a manager committed to forward thinking in all facets of his role, including sports science, recruitment and medical, among others.

That surely makes him a good fit for a club that in recent years has embraced artificial intelligence and brain training, as well as bringing on board a throw-in coach in an attempt to find a crucial edge.

The Reds’ research also told them that Slot boasts high-level communication skills that have helped him not only form a strong bond with his players across numerous clubs but also consistently improve them.

And while Darwin Nunez is already being touted as the biggest potential beneficiary on that front, he is not the only member of a young squad who needs to take further steps forward.

It seems, then, that Slot ticks many of the boxes Klopp did back in 2015, and similarities between the pair in fact became a theme of this recruitment process.

That the formation favoured by Liverpool’s new manager is similar to that of his predecessor is no coincidence given he will be required to work with a squad built for such a setup.

Meanwhile, it is also hoped that Slot’s preference for a comparable brand of high-energy football will also help ingratiate him to a fanbase that has grown to love that approach even more over the last eight-and-a-half years.

In fact, those stylistic similarities could perhaps prove crucial should there be any difficult early moments given that the new man arrives without the same level of celebrity or credit in the bank that Klopp boasted.

Still, if Liverpool’s due diligence is as valuable as it proved when they last made a managerial appointment, then Slot might not need much time to win over any Anfield doubters.