Arne Slot signs three-year deal as Liverpool manager and identifies four key players to build vision

Arne Slot at De Kuip

Arne Slot will look to unlock the full potential of striker Darwin Núñez and target contract extensions for three key players to propel Liverpool to more silverware.

The 45-year-old former Feyenoord coach has signed a three-year contract at Anfield after convincing the club hierarchy he is the man to replace Jürgen Klopp.

Speaking to Feyenoord’s website, Slot said: “It is certainly not an easy decision to close the door behind you at a club where you have experienced so many wonderful moments and worked successfully with so many wonderful people.

“But as a sportsman, an opportunity to become a head coach in the Premier League, at one of the biggest clubs in the world, is difficult to ignore.”

The move for Slot came following a critical spring meeting with Liverpool’s sporting director Richard Hughes held in the Dutch city of Zwolle.

It was there, following months of due diligence, where Slot persuaded club owners Fenway Sports Group they had found the right man to build on Klopp’s legacy.

Slot not only vowed to build on Klopp’s foundations, he identified young players such as striker Núñez as critical to moving the team forward. While the Uruguayan has been widely criticised for his rawness in front of goal, Slot noted his extraordinary attributes and name-checked him as one of the many players he is excited to work with.

Nunez shoots and misses
Slot sees the positives in Darwin Núñez's game rather than his erratic finishing - AP/Jon Super

Liverpool are also planning for the future with skipper Virgil van Dijk, star striker Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold fundamental to Slot’s debut campaign. Contract talks with the trio are a priority as the club are determined to retain a healthy balance between experience and youth, believing the squad Klopp has left behind will not need extensive surgery.

Salah posted on social media following confirmation of Slot’s arrival, where he appeared to hint at staying at Anfield.

“We know that trophies are what count and we will do everything possible to make that happen next season,” Salah said. “Our fans deserve it and we will fight like hell.”

It remains to be seen if mega bids from the Saudi Arabian Pro League alter the situation in the coming months – Liverpool understand how fluid circumstances are in the transfer market – but they have vowed to go into the new season even stronger to build on their third-place finish.

Confirmation of Slot’s impending arrival was delayed so as not to overshadow Klopp’s grand farewell on Sunday. Klopp did not get the memo when he urged the Kop to chant Slot’s name in his goodbye speech.

Now Liverpool and Feyenoord have jointly issued a formal announcement.

Slot has brought his first pre-season training sessions forward by a week – the squad will reconvene in the first week of July – so he can begin acclimatising to his new environment. Those representing their country at Euro 2024 and Copa America will return later, depending on how far they progress in the tournament.

A thorough recruitment process led to the former AZ Alkmaar and Feyenoord coach becoming the preferred candidate.

Liverpool sources are adamant Slot rapidly became the No 1 choice of Hughes and Fenway Sports Group chief executive Michael Edwards. The process sped up after it was known former Liverpool midfielder and Kop favourite Xabi Alonso was out of the running, Hughes and Edwards already knew the Bayer Leverkusen manager was not a possibility when they were appointed in March.

Liverpool looked to their data department and prepared forensic reports and character assessments on those coaches of most interest.

Slot and Sporting Lisbon’s Rúben Amorim emerged favourably on the metrics early on. However, it was Slot who shot to the top of the list when further reference material was collected.

Liverpool’s data model assessed Slot’s coaching skills based on players’ performances before they worked under him, during their spell under his management, and how many fared when they were no longer benefiting from his skills.

Slot’s capacity for improving footballers struck a chord, as did the overwhelmingly positive appraisals of his personality. By the time of the first formal meeting in the Netherlands, Liverpool believed they were closing in on the ideal candidate. Slot’s impressive performance in what amounted to a job interview sealed the deal.

Liverpool know they cannot directly replace Klopp, but their intention was always to find someone who shared his philosophy and would maintain the same culture in and around the training ground. Slot has also proven himself a popular operator with the media, which – in the modern age – is significant given the importance of having a Liverpool coach who can communicate with honesty and passion to the supporters. That was one of Klopp’s biggest strengths, albeit his coaching and man-management was the greatest factor in his success.

Under Slot, Liverpool believe the post-Klopp transition will be more straightforward than it would have been had they required a different style of football, or appointed a more introverted character.

There is a belief the fanbase will embrace the personality of the new man once he is settled at Anfield.

Slot’s life in football in nine quotes

Relatively little is known about Feyenoord manager Arne Slot, the man who has succeeded Jürgen Klopp as manager of Liverpool.

Here are nine of the Dutchman’s best quotes that provide an insight into what makes him tick.

1. On the expectations of his players

“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.”

2. On Messi, Guardiola and Klopp

“There are two people who have really enriched football in recent decades, who have never disappointed me. Those are Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola.

“Messi has everything. Guardiola’s teams always play good, dominant, well-thought-out football. Then of course you have Jürgen Klopp. Manchester City-Liverpool for me is the ultimate game.”

3. On his pressing philosophy

“We always want to create a surplus around the ball, both offensively and defensively so that we can lock down the opponent and immediately move forward. We always have to press the ball aggressively when we are outnumbered. That is why our defenders must be as high as possible on the field, so that we can win the ball in the opponent’s half and immediately launch a counter-attack.”

Feyenoord press
The aggressive press was the cornerstone of Feyenoord's succes under Slot - EPA/Maurice van Steen

4. On his formation, system and flexibility

“There are several teams playing with many systems. We have a team where you can see the changing system in the game. We play 4-3-3 and if the opponent is trying to pressure us in a certain way then we need to have an answer to that. These differences can be quite small to see.”

5. On losing to Manchester United (as AZ manager)

“The first 50 minutes I think we played quite well. I had the feeling it was quite a close match and that both teams could score. When you’re 1-0 down and you have to win over here it’s going to be very difficult and then the situation of the second goal comes and afterwards it was over for us. United showed how good they were in that period.

“When you want to have a result at Old Trafford you cannot have a situation like this [for the second goal]. Everyone saw it was a foul, we watched it back and it was a clear foul. When you concede a goal after a foul like this it’s almost impossible for us to win then over here.”

6. On his relationship with fans

“Our fans are so important, of course the players are important, but the fans can create this atmosphere between the players and the fans so we can score. We need them.”

Arne Slot
Slot brought the Eredivisie title back to Rotterdam for only the second time this century - Getty Images/Olaf Kraak

7. On Feyenoord’s rivalry with Roma:

“The Dutch media asked me a lot of questions, ‘Do you think about revenge [for the Europa Conference League final defeat in 2021-22]’… and then the headline is: ‘He wants revenge.’ But of course if you’ve lost a game, if it’s a final or another game, it’s quite normal for a professional sportsman that you want to win the next time.

“I do not think that it’s an emotional overload that makes it difficult or these kinds of things to play against AS Roma. What makes it difficult is that they have a very good organisation and very, very good individual players.”

8. On José Mourinho criticising his side’s progress

“If he said this a few months ago then I completely agree with him. I watched the game back this morning from the Conference League final and that team played very good football always the way to the final and also during the final. And at the beginning of this season the team that is here now didn’t play that well.

“But I’m hoping that maybe when he [Mourinho] sits here in a few hours he will change his opinion, because that is what I do. I think we’ve improved a lot through the season.”

9. On why Celtic are better than Rangers

“I think they [Celtic] are a great team who play good football.

“You should have and pay respect to teams that have been champions. Because I know how difficult it is to become a champion.

“Celtic, the last 10 years, they were nine times champions [in Scotland], I think I’ll offend Rangers fans, but Celtic are a much better team than Rangers if you look at the results.

“I’m a Dutchman so of course I like to watch Rangers. They had Giovanni van Bronckhorst, I think at that time they were really good but in the last 10 years Celtic have performed much better.”

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