Is Arne Slot the Right Man for the Liverpool Job?

The Jurgen Klopp era is coming to an end at Liverpool, and it appears they have already found his replacement: Arne Slot.


Besides turning Feyenoord from a mediocre team into a title-winning side, Slot has made a name for himself because of the style of football he plays with the ‘Trots van Zuid’. We will take a look at his playstyle, and how this fits in at Liverpool. I will also introduce you to his assistant Sipke Hulshoff in short.


Arne Slot’s Feyenoord side are extremely active in attack and defence and are known for being extremely physically demanding, and it should come as no surprise that his players boast the best stamina in the Eredivisie.


Photo: ESPN


Last season, Slot’s side had the most sprints per duel, and while this list will look different in comparison to this season, Feyenoord are still one of the most active pressing sides in the Eredivisie. Arne Slot lines his Feyenoord team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which at the start of the season was rotated more regularly while now, he mostly sticks to his strongest eleven. 


In possession, Feyenoord build-up out of a 2-3 shape, or a 3-3 shape with Mats Wieffer dropping between the defenders. Quilindschy Hartman and Lutsharel Geertruida shift up, Hartman is focused on holding width while Geertruida has a more free role diving inside.



The Dutch right-back plays in a role that is tailor made for Trent Alexander-Arnold, Geertruida has freedom to tuck inside and roam the midfield. The vice-captain often rotates with midfielders as he has the technique of an excellent central midfielder. 



Quillindschy Hartman has quite the opposite role to his fullback on the other flank, Hartman will over and underlap the left-winger while otherwise sticking close to the sideline. This would also fit in with Liverpool’s Scottish left-back Andrew Robertson. Continuing on Feyenoord’s build-up phase, however, their play is built heavily around playing through the midfield and then looking for the wingers.


When the wingers are in form, Feyenoord is. While there is a tactical idea behind this: widening the pitch, creating gaps in central areas for Stengs and other midfielders, there also is a part which you can’t train.A level of personal brilliance is asked from Yankuba Minteh and Igor Paixao, as they are the main chance creators and also a couple of the main goal scorers for Feyenoord.



The 4-2-3-1 turns into a 2-3-4-1 in possession as Quinten Timber shifts up to play more as a second 10 alongside Calvin Stengs. And its these two midfielders but especially Stengs that have creative freedom to run wide or come centrally to create chances. 


While Feyenoord’s in possession high tempo play is a big part of Slot’s coaching identity, his out-of-possession play is an even bigger and more important part of who Slot is as a coach. His out-of-possession style is based around high and aggressive pressing from the front first, then defending as a group.


Pressing from the front speaks for itself, but it is crucial for Slot. Feyenoord rank second in high turnovers, second in shot ending high turnovers but first in goal ending high turnovers, this shows just how important the press is for Slot.


Photo: Opta


Let’s take a look at one of Feyenoord’s goals against Ajax. But just before we do that it’s crucial to understand Feyenoord’s press is almost always started by either the striker or one of the wingers, at times Stengs will initiate the press as well. And you will notice later on as well that the wingers working extremely hard is a trend in Slot’s OOP play. But having said this, let’s take a look at the goal.


Yankuba Minteh (RW) and Bart Nieuwkoop (RB) force the ball back, which gives Minteh the opportunity to press and win the ball back which in this case directly leads to a goal. Now another example from PSV 2 – 2 Feyenoord, this one in totality down to Yankuba Minteh. The Gambian national catches Olivier Boscagli off guard, presses, wins the ball and scores. You can also notice Timber following Jerdy Schouten as he drops to keep pressure up.



These two are a testament to just how important the press is for Slot, and how he has gotten his side accustomed to the fact they have to work hard on and off the ball. But let’s take a look at the actual defensive and pressing structure. Feyenoord defends in a 4-2-4 shape almost. Of course it’s Santiago Gimenez with the wingers, but also the #10 on duty joining together to create the four man frontline to lead the press, and then of course the two midfielders and defenders.



This formation allows Feyenoord to be quick on their feet as they can easily press though the middle or quickly go to the wings. But they can also purely block the midfielders from getting any service, thus forcing long balls and easily winning the ball back. 


Here, off Heracles’ restart, Feyenoord begin with the two players up front, this is something they do almost always. Minteh presses up not allowing the ball to go through the middle, this is helped by Timber stepping up in midfield. This forces the ball wide where Feyenoord can easily trap it.



Of course this press is not only active on Feyenoord’s attacking half, but pitch wide, and that’s why Slot’s system is so physically demanding. The wingers are crucial offensively and defensively and they are possibly the hardest-working players in Slot’s system. Their task is to run up and down the wings following the ball trying to support the fullbacks. 



Minteh especially appears to have second wind, he is the most active winger on defence. But how would Liverpool look under Arne Slot? Well, let’s take a look. 


Using only their current players, there are some struggles in Slot’s possible lineup. This is especially at #6 and on the wings. Starting with #6 because Liverpool have one, so they need at least one back up, the most logical would be Mats Wieffer himself. The Dutchman and especially his role is crucial for Slot’s system.


Data from FBRef


If Wieffer were to join Liverpool it would make the transition easier for both him and Slot, they know each other and Wieffer knows the system. Then the wings and especially the right-wing, while on the left there are Cody Gakpo and Diogo Jota who both can and do defend, on the right Mohamed Salah does all but defend and track back.


And considering Salah is starting to become a nuisance on and off the pitch, it’s about time the ‘Egyptian king’ sits on a different throne. Because it’s absolutely crucial that everyone is willing to and is actually defending. But who can replace Mohamed Salah? Perhaps none other than Bayer Leverkusen’s Dutch international Jeremie Frimpong, who has less of an attacking output but would work perfectly on the defensive end of things.


Data from FBRef


Or maybe a ‘true’ winger in Belgian star Johan Bakayoko. The 21-year-old has proven himself to be a clinical winger with an eye for goal, But especially in the last few months Bakayoko has improved his defensive statistics heavily, this could allow him to work in Slot’s system as well.

Data from FBRef


Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at what a possible lineup could look like in Slot’s first season at Anfield.



Slot’s system is perfect for Trent Alexander-Arnold. The fullback that is more of a midfielder is ideal in this system, having the freedom to tuck in in possession would allow Slot to get the best out of the Englishman. Alexis Mac Allister is also possibly the closest profile to Quinten Timber, as the Argentine has both defensive and attacking ability. He is able to carry the ball, create chances or finish them off himself, and his running ability would allow him to fulfill the role quite perfectly as well.


Prior to Slot’s arrival in the summer of 2021, Feyenoord had not finished in the top two since their title-winning 2016/17 campaign. Since then, they’ve placed third, ended a six-year title drought, and today, they are set to end the season in second place. After nearly a decade honing his skills at Cambuur, AZ and Feyenoord, the 45-year-old is destined for a new adventure, where he’ll be looking to fill the shoes of one of the greatest managers in Liverpool’s history.


By: Teo Slehofer / @TeoSlehofer

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Craig Roy – SNS Group