• Sáb. May 18th, 2024

-> Noticias de futbol internacional

How Arne Slot plays football – and can it work at Liverpool?

The Athletic


Arne Slot is set to become the next man in charge at Anfield.

On Friday night, Liverpool agreed a compensation package with Feyenoord that will allow the 45-year-old to become Jurgen Klopp’s successor following the conclusion of the current season.

Slot’s pedigree has grown across European football in the past 18 months after he led Feyenoord to only their second Eredivisie title in 20 years last season, losing just two games in the process.

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Yet this is hardly proof of a significant slump in performances. Feyenoord’s 2.4 points per game is actually identical to their title-winning campaign which reflects their consistency over a long period. In Peter Bosz’s PSV, they have simply been up against the most prolific chance creators across Europe’s top seven leagues.

If anything, Feyenoord’s vital signs look stronger this year under Slot, with their 1.9 expected goal difference per 90 minutes — which accounts for chances created and conceded — an improvement on last season’s 1.1.

The Athletic has previously unpacked Arne Slot, the player, the man, the manager — but what exactly is his tactical identity? And how might this translate to Liverpool’s current crop?


Liverpool have agreed a deal to appoint Arne Slot as their new manager — and The Athletic has every angle covered.
  • Arne Slot: Feyenoord’s champion and now Liverpool’s main man
  • Dirk Kuyt: Why this coach could be perfect for Anfield
  • Kick-boxing and Beckham: Access all areas at Slot’s Feyenoord
  • James Pearce: Replacing Klopp is no longer the impossible job

Slot knows little else but to play on the front foot, whoever the opponent may be.

The Dutchman commonly sets up with a 4-2-3-1 formation in possession, using a midfield double pivot to progress centrally through the first line of pressure, with a No 10, two wingers and a central striker.

Unsurprisingly, Pep Guardiola and Roberto De Zerbi are among the managers he is most inspired by, but Slot is also known to admire Marcelo Bielsa, Jorge Sampaoli, Jurgen Klopp, Luciano Spaletti and Mikel Arteta. He has also shared ideas with Liverpool assistant coach and fellow Dutchman Pep Lijnders.

Slot would frequently show his players clips of Manchester City and Brighton to show them how he wanted to play.

“We used a lot of videos of Manchester City and Bayern — he was crazy about Pep, how his teams create space, how they attack,” former AZ manager John van den Brom, who had Slot as one his assistants, told The Athletic.

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One such video was of the 2021 Champions League final between City and Chelsea, which he showed to his players in his first team meeting at Feyenoord to demonstrate the quality of the two teams’ attacking play but also how well their defences countered it.

“What was nice for me is that he always thought in an attacking way,” Van den Brom added. “(His focus was) how can we make it clear to the players how we want to play? We were always searching for different ideas.”

When you watch Slot’s Feyenoord, you can see parallels with Guardiola and De Zerbi’s approach, particularly in build-up. Defenders are encouraged to play short passes into midfield, who then find the space out wide from the full-backs or wingers.

Take this recent example away to Fortuna Sittard.

Goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther attracts the pressure from the opposition striker, with centre-backs Thomas Beelen and David Hancko closely flanking him. Note the double pivot of Mats Wieffer and Quinten Timber operating on staggered lines in midfield, prepared to bounce the ball through the heart of the pitch for central progression — much like De Zerbi’s Brighton in a 3-2 set-up.

As Hancko receives it, he fizzes it forward into Timber, who attracts pressure from two Fortuna Sittard players. That opens up space for full-back Lutsharel Geertruida, who receives the pass from Timber as Feyenoord progress out of pressure.

This approach is reflected in Feyenoord’s playstyle wheel, which outlines how each team looks to play compared with Europe’s top seven leagues.

Feyenoord’s “Deep build-up” rating (86 out of 99) reflects how Slot will often ask his goalkeeper to keep his passes short into his centre-backs to build through the thirds. Unsurprisingly, Feyenoord will often dominate possession (61 per cent) with only PSV having a higher share of the ball in the Eredivisie. Both are among the highest in Europe’s top seven leagues (Possession, 92 out of 99).

Slot’s version of the 4-2-3-1 could strengthen Trent Alexander-Arnold’s case to move away from full-back under Slot, as the 25-year-old has grown accustomed to forming a double pivot with the No 6 — either alongside Alexis Mac Allister or Wataru Endo — when he inverts in possession.

The box created by two centre-backs and two deeper midfielders is key to Slot’s initial build-up phase, and having one of the best passers in world football would provide a key weapon in beating the opposition’s initial press.

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One player who might need to adapt is Ibrahima Konate, with questions remaining about his quality in possession and ability to pick out a line-breaking pass. Youngster Jarell Quansah has shown more comfort in possession, but with Joel Matip set to depart at the end of his contract in the summer, a ball-playing right-sided centre-back could be high on the priority list.


Slot’s focus on possession-dominance is not to say that his team dawdles on the ball. The energy and purpose that Feyenoord play with is analogous to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool — a style that can be direct without making them long-ball team.

This is reflected in their “Circulate” metric (54 out of 99), which might appear average in the context of wider European football, but highlights Feyenoord’s variety in how they advance through the thirds — sometimes speeding the game up with progressive passes and sometimes slowing it down by working the ball side-to-side.

Variety is a key word in Slot’s vocabulary.

His training sessions are high-octane, but he will often rotate the drills to keep his players interested.

“Slot and his coaches ask so much from his players, it’s unbelievable,” says Martijn Krabbendam, who covers Feyenoord for Voetbal International. “Every training (session) is high intensity. He demands a lot of those players but they don’t mind because his way of training and his exercises are at such a high level. And there’s always something new to give the players some joy in what they’re doing.”

All exercises are ultimately centred on Feyenoord increasing their chances of scoring a goal, and when it comes to the attacking phase there are a selection of approaches that have been particularly lucrative this season.

First, Slot’s direct play is shown below against Heracles, where full-back Geertruida finds Wieffer dropping inside the opposition defensive block. Wieffer turns and plays a simple, lofted ball to striker Santiago Gimenez who races through to finish one-v-one. From back to front in little more than seven seconds.

That progression through the heart of the opposition defence can also be more refined and intricate. Just three passes were needed in getting from centre-back Gernot Trauner to winger Igor Paixao as Feyenoord’s forward-thinking style pierced Utecht’s defence.

Feyenoord’s average “Patient attack” rating (42 out of 99) reflects such versatility going forward. They can play direct but also like to use their full-backs to provide the team’s width, allowing the attackers in front to drift centrally and rotate between themselves.

For Slot, this has two benefits. The first is that the full-back can overlap and provide an attacking threat by getting to the byline to cross the ball — often via cutbacks.

As shown by this goal against Ajax, Feyenoord regain the ball high up, with No 10 Calvin Stengs releasing right-back Bart Nieuwkoop who is racing beyond him. Nieuwkoop fools three Ajax players to pull the ball back to Yankuba Minteh hovering near the penalty spot.

Cutbacks have been a key weapon for Feyenoord this season and for those interested in looking at the tape, goals against NEC, Excelsior, Heerenveen, Almere City, and Lazio will reveal similar patterns of play.

The second benefit of these flying full-backs is to make space for Feyenoord’s forwards to play searching crosses to the back post. As shown below, there are multiple examples of an inverted winger cutting onto his stronger foot to find an onrushing team-mate to meet their cross. Creating overloads on the flank allows these players to have more space to pick their pass.

Such an approach is a throwback to Klopp’s peak era when Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were the team’s creative lynchpins from advanced areas.

If Slot were to implement a similar style at Liverpool, the roles would be ideally suited to the attacking instincts and athleticism of Robertson and Conor Bradley in particular, if Alexander-Arnold were to move into midfield.

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Slot demands similar versatility from his wide forwards, often overloading on one side of the pitch to create a one-on-one on the opposite flank. At AZ Alkmaar and Feyenoord, Slot seemed to prefer a ball-carrying left winger, who favoured cutting inside and combining with teammates — music to the ears of Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo, who both relish attacking their opposite full-back.

On the other flank, Mohamed Salah’s elite ball-carrying has diminished in recent seasons, but with Slot keen on his wingers inverting, often forming dual No 10s in central spaces, Liverpool’s wide triangles might make a more sustained comeback.

In truth, Liverpool’s recent transfer business would benefit Slot with a versatile squad that has evidenced its ability to switch between different roles and systems. A move from Klopp’s 4-3-3 to Slot’s 4-2-3-1 would likely be a smooth transition given their adaptation to a 3-box-3 structure in the past 12 months.

The No 10 role might be well-suited to multiple Liverpool players in the squad, with Cody Gakpo seemingly more suited to an advanced central role behind a front three. Elsewhere, Alexis Mac Allister has evidenced his attacking qualities in an advanced role since the turn of the year, while Harvey Elliott is expert at finding pockets of space in advanced central areas.


Slot’s focus on intensity is mirrored in Feyenoord’s approach out of possession.

Take this example against PSV Eindhoven.

As centre-back Olivier Boscagli receives the ball, Gimenez is blocking the passing lane in one direction, while Minteh hurries to block the pass to the left. As Minteh engages, note how midfielders Timber and Wieffer have pushed and locked onto PSV’s midfielders man-to-man, giving Boscagli no passing options (slide 2). Minteh dispossesses the PSV defender and beats the goalkeeper to score into an empty net.

Slot’s side do not always look to strangle the opposition out of possession — often retreating to a compact 4-4-2 off the ball — but high pressing with a purpose has been a key theme of Feyenoord’s season. No Eredivisie side has registered more goal-ending high turnovers — open-play sequences that start 40 metres or less from the opponent’s goal — than Feyenoord’s 11 this season.

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It is worth highlighting how much Slot has instilled this style since he arrived at Feyenoord in the summer of 2021. Below, you can see how Feyenoord’s style has evolved over time and there is a notable uptick in their defensive approach (red metrics). Not only are they playing with more intensity and with a higher line, but they also now boast one of the best defensive records on the continent this season (Chance prevention, 95 out of 99).

Only Sporting CP, Juventus, Inter Milan and Arsenal average a lower non-penalty expected goals conceded than Feyenoord’s 0.73 per 90 across Europe’s top seven leagues.

To build such physical robustness, pre-season preparation and conditioning throughout the season are very important for Slot. One of his core beliefs is that players should never stand still on the pitch, they always be on the move.

In technical meetings, he relays this vision to the players and stresses that, by being fitter than their opponents and outworking them, his team can win even if their quality drops. Few people will need reminding just how much this closely aligns with Liverpool’s approach since Klopp arrived.

Slot’s scientific perspective to training will also align with Liverpool’s data-led mantra. The Dutchman was aware that his desire for an intense, hard-running approach in matches and training had to be balanced by caution that his players weren’t being overworked.

Attention to detail is known to be a key part of his management. He worked closely with the data and fitness teams at Feyenoord to see if players’ numbers were dropping in any metric and they looked vulnerable to injury. “Take care of your body,” Slot would say to his players.

Beyond the high-possession, high-pressing, clinical attacking football, Slot has shown that he can achieve success without vast spending — a trait that will be attractive to FSG, whose self-sustaining financial model is sacrosanct.

Feyenoord have not spent more than €8million on a player in the club’s history, with a revenue that is comfortably trumped by Dutch rivals PSV and Ajax. Slot has shown his ability to improve the value of his players and promote youth development.

It is another aspect to a manager who has more parallels to Klopp’s approach than people might have initially thought. There are no guarantees of success but Slot seems to tick many of the boxes.

Additional reporting: Andy Jones

(Top photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images)