• Mar. May 21st, 2024

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Liverpool squad audit: Who could be the winners and losers under Slot?

Liverpool squad audit: Who could be the winners and losers under Slot?

It is likely to be the first question confronting Arne Slot at Liverpool: which players do, and do not, fit into his vision for the club’s future?

The Dutchman is not inheriting a squad that needs ripping up. Jurgen Klopp made sure Liverpool 2.0 had undergone a successful launch before he announced his departure in January.


However, the 45-year-old will want to impose his own style, even if that does have some similarities to his predecessor, and potentially add players he believes suit his system.


Alisson Becker – WINNER

Slot is fortunate to be inheriting one of the best goalkeepers in world football. The 31-year-old’s standards remain sky-high despite this season being disrupted by injury. He is a brilliant shot-stopper, particularly in one-on-one situations, and is calm and confident in possession, which is crucial as Slot wants his side to build attacks from deep. His status as Liverpool’s No 1 is secure.

Caoimhin Kelleher – UNCERTAIN

Liverpool consider the Republic of Ireland international to be one of the world’s best No 2 goalkeepers. That has been backed up this season when he stepped in impressively for Alisson when the Brazilian suffered a serious hamstring injury – most notably in the Carabao Cup final.

Kelleher profiles as the right type of goalkeeper – a good shot-stopper and comfortable with his feet – but the 25-year-old may feel it is time to move on and establish himself as a No 1 elsewhere. It was a consideration last summer, but Liverpool wanted to keep him and offers, the latest being Nottingham Forest’s £15million bid in January, have been too low. This may represent the optimum time to cash in from a business perspective, but Liverpool would be losing an excellent backup and one of their homegrown players.

Caoimhin Kelleher may feel he needs to leave Anfield (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Adrian – LOSER

The Spanish veteran is once again out of contract in the summer, so an immediate decision must be made on his future. The 37-year-old has been an experienced presence in the dressing room but has not made a first-team appearance since the Community Shield victory over Manchester City in July 2022. It would not be surprising that, with a new coaching staff arriving, they go in a different direction with their third-choice goalkeeper, potentially with a new youngster.


Trent Alexander-Arnold – WINNER

Slot is inheriting a generational talent and the type of game-changing player he has never had at Feyenoord. The 25-year-old’s exquisite passing range will lend itself perfectly to Slot’s controlled, yet varied, build-up play.

Slot will have the luxury decision of keeping him at right-back or converting him into a full-time midfielder. Using a double pivot in his preferred 4-2-3-1, Alexander-Arnold could be perfect in that deeper central role to help progress Liverpool up the pitch. But Slot will invert his full-backs so Alexander-Arnold could remain in a role similar to his current one. The setup will vary and sometimes Slot will want his right-back to provide width – a throwback to his previous role.


Lutsharel Geertruida is a versatile full-back who has played on both sides. Notably, he has the second most touches for Feyenoord this season, highlighting the influence Slot wants from his full-backs.

Conor Bradley – WINNER

The emergence of the Northern Ireland international has been a welcome surprise this season and he has cemented himself as part of the first-team squad. He has a skill set that should suit Slot’s style, having demonstrated his attacking instincts both in and out of possession. His crossing will be an area he can continue to improve.

If Slot moves Alexander-Arnold into midfield and inverts his right-winger – which he does at Feyenoord with right-back Geertruida and right-winger Yankuba Minteh – his right-back will need to provide the width on that flank.

Virgil van Dijk – WINNER

Liverpool’s captain knows plenty about his incoming manager and compatriot and believes his style means “he can be a Liverpool coach”.

The 32-year-old defender has stepped into the senior leadership role very well and continues to combine defensive dominance with progressive passing – a perfect fit for Slot. Feyenoord’s left centre-back David Hancko is their version of Van Dijk.

The only question is over his contract. Van Dijk has only one year remaining, so a swift decision needs to be made on his future. Deciding to move on from Van Dijk would be a huge call.

Virgil van Dijk remains key to Liverpool (Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Ibrahima Konate – UNCERTAIN

Konate is experiencing a crisis of confidence at present, with his distribution suffering in particular. Passing progressively has been a requirement for Klopp centre-backs, but it is not something that comes naturally to the France international.

Teams are happy for Konate to have possession because his distribution is not on the same level as Alexander-Arnold or Van Dijk. That is problematic as Slot wants his centre-backs to be comfortable ball players who can help build from deep.


Konate’s defensive ability is not in doubt, but another issue Slot has to consider is his injury record. The 25-year-old cannot be relied upon to start three games in a week without injury risk.

Joel Matip – LOSER

Matip’s ball-playing skills would make him an ideal fit for Slot because he is comfortable moving upfield and punching passes to break opposition defensive lines. But the centre-half is out of contract in the summer and there is no sense an extension will be offered for a player who will be 33 before next season begins and has not played since December due to a serious knee injury. With a chequered injury history, it makes sense for all parties to part ways and Liverpool look to go younger.

Joe Gomez – WINNER

The 2023-24 campaign has been a crucial one for Gomez’s career as he has re-established himself as a key part of Liverpool’s squad through his quality of performances and versatility.

Filling in at both full-back positions and as a No 6, Slot is inheriting a player comfortable in multiple positions across the back line. This season, he has been comfortable inverting when required and has improved on the ball in central areas.

Due to his ball-playing credentials and not possessing the attacking instincts of others, Slot may choose to move Gomez back into his more natural centre-back role, where the 26-year-old is likely to want to return. Having been largely injury-free, he appears to trust his body again and has regained a yard of pace.

Jarell Quansah – WINNER

While Quansah’s first season of top-level football has not been perfect, he has been able to display his huge potential during his 31 appearances. Barring some high-profile recent errors, the 21-year-old has showcased all the attributes required for the top level, particularly his comfort in possession and eye for a pass.

Andy Robertson – WINNER

The 30-year-old has endured an injury-hit campaign but has been one of Liverpool’s more consistent players during the turmoil of recent weeks.


Slot’s system demands his full-backs help with the initial build-up stage before joining attacks. The idea is to isolate one player on each flank depending on suitability. If the winger inverts, the full-back will provide width and vice versa.

Klopp’s full-backs used to be an attacking focal point and Robertson flourished, using his endless energy to get up and down the left flank and deliver crosses. Only Alexander-Arnold (58) has more assists in the Premier League than Robertson (57) and Slot, too, relies on his full-backs to provide a large portion of crosses into the box. Robertson has barely ever been an inverted full-back since Liverpool introduced it into their gameplan, so it is an area he would need to learn.

Kostas Tsimikas – LOSER

The demand for crosses from full-back should suit Tsimikas, too, as it is arguably his most impressive attribute. But his most recent performance against Atalanta in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth and the question remains whether Tsimikas, 27, is capable of inverting and being part of the initial build-up phase. He tends towards being loose in possession, which could end up being costly. There may be players who better fit the profile Slot prefers.

Liverpool have agreed a deal to appoint Arne Slot as their new manager – and The Athletic has every angle covered.
  • Adam Crafton: What I learned from time with Arne Slot
  • What kind of football does Slot play?
  • Dirk Kuyt: Why this coach could be perfect for Anfield
  • Profile: Feyenoord’s champion who became Liverpool’s main man
  • Kickboxing and Beckham: Access all areas at Slot’s Feyenoord
  • James Pearce: Replacing Klopp is no longer the impossible job


Alexis Mac Allister – WINNER

Whether it’s the deeper or more advanced role in the double pivot, Slot’s system looks to be a perfect fit for the Argentina international. As the season has progressed, Mac Allister’s all-round quality has shown. He is comfortable handling possession anywhere and wants to progress his team forward with his wide range of passes.

Within Slot’s 4-2-3-1, the midfield three effectively operate on separate axis, so there is a No 6, No 8 and No 10. Mac Allister has shown he can operate in all three of those positions, so his versatility makes him an ideal for the new coach.

Wataru Endo – UNCERTAIN

The future of Alexander-Arnold may have a significant impact on Endo’s future. He has surprised everybody this season and was crucial in that period over December and January when injuries reduced Liverpool’s midfield options.

But one area he has not always looked comfortable is in Liverpool’s build-up play. Teams, particularly Crystal Palace, have targeted him and forced him to concede turnovers. Playing in a double pivot should help, as he will not be the only midfield required to progress the ball.

It has been his reading of the game and aggression from the deepest midfield position which has impressed. However, it may be an area Slot feels he can upgrade in.

Wataru Endo has found himself targeted (Benjamin Cremel/AFP via Getty Images)

Dominik Szoboszlai – WINNER

If Slot’s former assistant coach at AZ Alkmaar, Julian Jenner, believes Szoboszlai will play a big part in the new era, then it bodes well for the 23-year-old.


Szoboszlai appears to suit the most advanced midfield role. The No 10 has to be creative and is allowed to play with freedom. He has also been effective when asked to join Liverpool’s No 9 out of possession when pressing, which Slot also wants.

Even a deeper role would suit him as Slot likes players who make “depth runs” — fast, explosive moves from deep which can penetrate opposing defences and which are a feature of Szoboszlai’s game at his best. Quinten Timber, Feyenoord’s No 8, profiles similarly to Szoboszlai in progressing the ball through passing and carrying.

Ryan Gravenberch – WINNER

In his last two appearances against Fulham and West Ham, Gravenberch has offered an insight into his talent. Still only 21, the Dutch international is a mouldable talent with huge potential. Slot will know plenty about the youngster who burst onto the scene at Ajax as a 17-year-old and earned a move to Bayern Munich. He is another progressive player that can be plugged into the system in different positions.

The most logical position for him appears to be the No 10 role. Finding pockets of space and driving at opposition defenders is a strength, so the challenge will be increasing his goal contributions. A proper pre-season should also help given he arrived at Liverpool late in August after a summer at Bayern where he was on the periphery.

Harvey Elliott – WINNER

Slot is inheriting an impact substitute, but Elliott’s development continues to trend towards a more consistent starting role. He is another player the new manager can rely on to be progressive in possession and his profile lends itself to being the advanced No 10, close to the penalty area and able to influence by finding space.

What he lacks in physicality he makes up for in anticipation and decision making. He is also a relentless presser, which perfectly suited the off-ball defensive setup Klopp had and which is set to continue.

Curtis Jones – UNCERTAIN

Jones built his way into the Liverpool team at the back end of last season because of his positional intelligence, ball retention and ability to arrive in the box to finish off attacking moves.


It has been a stop-start season for the 23-year-old, but when he was fit and firing, he made himself a regular in the left-sided No 8 role. Where he operates is similar to the role Slot wants from his left-sided midfielder – a player who can drop deep to help with the initial build-up phase but then join attacks.

The concern with Jones at times is his tendency not to move the ball quickly enough. That can be a positive because losing possession constantly opens up transition opportunities for the opposition, but this may not suit Slot, who wants to play dynamic, attacking football.

Curtis Jones’ style may not suit Arne Slot (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Stefan Bajcetic – UNCERTAIN

With a handful of under-21 appearances under his belt, Bajcetic finally looks to have put over 12 months of injuries behind him.

The exciting 18-year-old has not had the chance to build on his impressive few months at the start of 2023, when he flourished as both a No 6 and No 8 in Klopp’s 4-3-3. He is another versatile option but, depending on potential recruitment, a loan move may suit him best.

Fabio Carvalho – LOSER

After a disappointing loan at RB Leipzig in the first half of the campaign, Carvalho has bounced back with regular game time and a noticeable impact at Hull City, scoring nine goals since his January arrival. The plan is for the 22-year-old to return to Liverpool and be given the opportunity to impress in pre-season.

Slot’s system, which operates with a more natural No 10, appears to suit Carvalho better than any position in Klopp’s 4-3-3. The problem is the number of options in front of him in the queue. It is tough to see him getting sufficient game time unless he dazzles Slot and his staff in pre-season. There is likely to be interest in him, so it may suit all parties to move on.

Thiago Alcantara – LOSER

It is a shame Thiago’s last Liverpool appearance will be the eight-minute cameo in the 3-1 defeat to Arsenal in February. After waiting patiently for his latest return from injury, the Spain international suffered another season-ending setback.


Thiago will be one of Liverpool’s modern-day ‘what if’ signings. Had he been able to stay fit consistently, Slot would have had an interesting decision to make on a player at the end of his contract but who possesses the passing range and tempo control he wants from midfielders. As it is, Thiago’s injury record means he will leave Anfield in the summer when his deal expires.


Mohamed Salah – UNCERTAIN

A huge decision must be made on Salah’s future in the summer but, with the Egypt international set to stay for at least one more season, it will be interesting to see how Slot uses him.

The Dutch coach likes his wingers to be strong in one-on-one situations and dominate opposition full-backs. It is an area of Salah’s game that has decreased dramatically in recent seasons.

However, the setup can alter and one of the wingers can be asked to invert to create a central overload in attacking areas and effectively become a secondary No 10, something Feyenoord’s Calvin Stengs has done. That looks more suitable for Salah, who has become a creator, and it also gets him closer to goal.

Salah’s long-term future is uncertain (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Luis Diaz – WINNER

Slot likes to isolate his wingers, particularly on the left flank so they can be one-on-one with the opposition full-back. It is a role that will come naturally to Diaz.

In the Premier League, the Colombian international averages 4.8 take-ons and 4.6 progressive carries per 90 minutes according to fbref.com, the most of any Liverpool player. He has the ability to go on the inside or outside and is relentless in his attempts to beat his opponent, all of which should appeal to Slot.

Darwin Nunez – UNCERTAIN

Is Nunez the elite, reliable goalscoring No 9 Liverpool need to challenge for major honours? That’s the question Slot must answer when he inherits a striker who has all the tools but delivers inconsistently.


Those doubts have amplified in recent weeks with Nunez suffering a slump in form and a crisis in confidence that has left him a shadow of the player who was a shining light in the opening months of 2024.

Slot’s attacking brand of football is designed to create high-quality chances. Nunez has never struggled to find himself in the correct goalscoring areas, but the execution needs finessing. The coach will hope to replicate the success he had with 23-year-old Santiago Gimenez, who hit 47 goals in 85 games in two seasons in Holland.

Diogo Jota – WINNER

If there are doubts about Nunez’s killer instinct, there are none about Jota’s, the most natural goalscorer in Liverpool’s squad. He should thrive off Slot’s attacking patterns, which heavily feature cutbacks from the byline.

The only concern is his injury record. Slot’s high-intensity football suits Jota’s skills, but not necessarily his body. The successful methods used to try to reduce injuries at Feyenoord may be exactly what the Portugal international needs.

Cody Gakpo – WINNER

Before arriving on Merseyside, Gakpo was a star in the Eredivisie as a left winger. After becoming a false nine at Liverpool, in recent months he has been most effective on the left flank.

Gakpo is unlikely to become a 20-goal-a-season No 9, but his skill set does suit what Slot wants from his wingers. He is a ball carrier who likes to drift inside and is willing to take on opponents.

Liverpool attempted to convert Gakpo into an attacking No 8, too. He has a lot of what is required to play the role, but the experiment was scrapped quickly. However, the more advanced No 10 role could be an ideal compromise and allow Gakpo to flourish centrally while having another forward ahead of him.

The youngsters

Feyenoord’s squad this season has an average age of 23.9 and one of the big appeals of Slot to Liverpool was his willingness to work with young players and develop them.

Slot awarded 12,334 minutes to academy talent in the season Feyenoord won the league. He believes they can offer extra energy to the first team and help drive the culture of the club.

That is encouraging for Bobby Clark, James McConnell and Jayden Danns, who all provided that when called upon earlier this season, as well as Lewis Koumas and Kaide Gordon. Quansah and Bradley took it a step further and established themselves as first-team players.

Jayden Danns could benefit from Slot’s attitude to youth (Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Slot will have the opportunity to assess that trio alongside other youngsters, including central midfielder Tyler Morton, left-backs Owen Beck and Luke Chambers and winger Ben Doak before deciding on the next best step for their development.

The first three have all had good loans at Hull City, Dundee and Wigan Athletic respectively, building up their first-team experience. Doak has been hampered by a knee injury, but his desire to take on opposition full-backs appears to be the perfect profile for what Slot wants from his wingers.

(Top photos: Getty Images)