Slot – the ‘control freak’ inspired by Guardiola

Home » Slot – the ‘control freak’ inspired by Guardiola

Doing well in the Dutch Eredivisie does not guarantee success in the Premier League, but the Liverpool hierarchy must be confident that Arne Slot can continue his fine achievements in England.

He has constantly overachieved with his teams in the Netherlands so far. Just ask Dutch legend Marco van Basten, who has been hugely impressed with his work.

“I really think he is that good,” the former striker told Rondo, a Dutch talkshow on Ziggo Sport. “He could end up anywhere. Bayern Munich, Liverpool, you name it. I’m really convinced of that.”

Liverpool’s owners are adamant that will be their club, as Slot has impressed them with his attacking blend of football, constantly pressing opponents high up the field – reminiscent of the football played at Anfield under Jurgen Klopp.

Just like the German manager, Slot is prepared to take that approach against anyone.

A telling example was Feyenoord’s Champions League match at Atletico Madrid earlier this season.

Their intensity helped them achieve seven shots on target, a total last bettered by a visiting side against Atletico in the Champions League when Real Madrid managed eight in 2015, according to Opta.

This season was Feyenoord’s first Champions League’s campaign in six years, but they excelled in winning the ball high up the pitch, resulting in dangerous situations.

In their six group matches, they won the ball back 59 times in the last 40 metres of the pitch in open play, with only four teams doing that more often.

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Slot’s teams play well in possession, and his players overlap to provide an extra layer of unpredictability.

“I’ve spoken to him a few times and what he does and what he sees is very good,” explains Van Basten. “He gets on with the squad very well, is tactically very astute, can explain things well and is calm and intelligent.

“I think he can go to any club, yes. Even to the very difficult clubs, because he is so intelligent.”

Apart from his tactical expertise and meticulous preparations, Slot is also good at building a team with modest resources.

Seven players who started the 2022 Europa Conference League final defeat by Roma left Feyenoord that summer. Slot, though, built a team with new recruits such as Santiago Gimenez, Sebastian Szymanski and Mats Wieffer – all for nominal fees – who would prove pivotal in securing a first Dutch title in six years.

Last summer, again, they lost important players in Szymanski and Orkun Kokcu, but have had a strong season once more, winning the Dutch Cup last Sunday.

Feyenoord spent around £30m on players in each of the past two campaigns, whereas Ajax have had an outlay of almost £100m in each of theirs.

On top of that, Slot gives young talent a chance.

Quinten Timber – twin brother of Arsenal’s Jurrien – and Quilindschy Hartman have developed very well under his tutelage and become pillars of the team, with both making their debut for the Dutch national team this season as well.

Slot is inspired by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, studying every small detail.

“I certainly don’t want to compare myself to Pep, but he is a control freak just like me,” Slot said in an interview with Voetbal International in May 2023.

“If I look at myself, I try to win a match in the week before it is played, by conveying the training, pre-match team talks and tactics to the players as perfectly as possible.”

He said previously watching Guardiola’s teams gives him the “ultimate joy in football”.

“There is no team in the world I would rather watch than Manchester City, followed by Napoli, Arsenal and Brighton,” added Slot.

“But City – and again it is not my intention to compare us with them – have a similar style of play to how we want to play with Feyenoord: 4-3-3, building up from the back, wanting to apply pressure quickly.”

Last season, Leeds and Crystal Palace were said to be interested and Tottenham were very keen on his services, but Slot opted to stay in the Netherlands, where he had just won the title and was looking ahead to guiding Feyenoord in the Champions League.

Van Basten doesn’t think a move to the Premier League would be a step too high.

“If you get AZ and Feyenoord to play [good] football, you will also get the big clubs to play [good] football,” says Van Basten.

“I think it would only become easier for him because you have better players who understand quicker what you want. Those players are also more stubborn, but I think Slot is smart enough to manage that.”

The Dutchman has a calm and balanced approach, which works well with his players and was highlighted in one of his post-match dressing room talks last season.

After Feyenoord beat rivals Ajax for the first time away in the league in 17 seasons, a video released by the club showed Slot talking about the importance of the weeks to come.

“Because this is only a win. It’s not more than a win, it’s a big win, but it’s not more than a win,” said Slot in the video. “We have a bigger goal this season than only winning for the first time in 17 years in Amsterdam. Our goal is bigger than that.”

Feyenoord duly went on to clinch the league title.

This year they are in good form again and could even get a higher points tally than last season’s 82, but PSV’s impressive form means they will probably have to settle for second, which would still guarantee Champions League football.

Now Slot could be set to embrace another rivalry, this time with a manager he so admires in Guardiola.

The Dutch boss would say bring it on.

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