Monday, June 17, 2024

Jurgen Klopp was the real deal – Liverpool are gambling on Arne Slot being the next big thing

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When Klopp joined in 2015, Liverpool supporters were grateful he chose the club when he could have waited for any in the world. When Slot arrives, he will be grateful Liverpool chose him and needs to justify the selection.

There is nothing new or strange about there being no emotional connection. Most coaches at any club arrive needing to win the fans over, greatness being earned rather than instantly thrust upon them. Klopp was an exception because he arrived as a double Bundesliga winner with Champions League pedigree. Many followed his work and felt he was a Liverpool manager-in-waiting.

For the first time since Rafa Benitez arrived having just won La Liga and the UEFA Cup with Valencia, Liverpool had a ready-made, elite coach – a manager of substance to worry their rivals. Is the same true of Slot? The appointment is intriguing rather than exciting.

For the last nine years, Liverpool have possessed one of the top two managers in the world. They are now gambling on the next big thing rather than appointing a proven, real deal.

‘I would prefer a proven winner’

I would have given more thorough consideration to a coach like Thomas Tuchel who took on and beat Pep Guardiola in the ultimate test – a Champions League final. Tuchel followed Klopp at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund and did well. It has not worked out at Bayern Munich this season, but you only have to look at Carlo Ancelotti and Unai Emery to recognise how top coaches recover from setbacks.

If another English club takes Tuchel, that would convince me they will significantly improve, but my sense is Liverpool do not want a coach with a reputation for being fractious.

I would prefer a proven winner who could be difficult to manage to a coach who might be easy to manage but still have everything to prove.

My overriding concern is this: does Slot move to England ready to take on Guardiola for the Premier League and Champions League?

The new Liverpool manager must say from the outset he is here to win, not just compete.

After the Klopp years, no-one at Liverpool has any appetite to hear about transitional periods, seasons of consolidation or the ‘minimum requirement’ of Champions League qualification. Klopp’s triumph was extinguishing moderate expectations, re-establishing Liverpool as a team to be feared.

This is not 2010, 2012 or 2015 when significant reconstruction was necessary. The club has a base on which to improve next season, with a squad still technically in the title race with four games left – albeit they now need an unlikely set of results to win it.

The direction must be onwards, despite changes at the top.

Liverpool seem to be moving into an era where they want the coach’s priority to be solely on preparing the team, while Michael Edwards and Richard Hughes assume most responsibility to construct a squad. The new hierarchy never gave the impression they were looking for the next Klopp – a force of nature who would fight the necessary battles to ensure the squad was what he wanted.

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