‘I am not a Klopp clone,’ insists Slot as he sets sights on Liverpool title push

Arne Slot believes Liverpool need only marginal improvement to win the Premier League and has insisted there is more to his football style than being a clone of Jürgen Klopp.

Liverpool unveiled their new head coach on Friday almost five weeks after he officially started. One reason for the delay was to put distance between Slot and Klopp’s emotional farewell, although the 45-year-old’s predecessor still loomed large over proceedings. Klopp’s name was mentioned 11 times during the press conference – on seven occasions in questions asked by the media – and Slot, while admitting he had “big shoes to fill”, claimed he relished the opportunity to build on his predecessor’s legacy.

The former Feyenoord coach said: “Margins are small [at the top of the Premier League] and sometimes it’s difficult if the margins are small and you’ve inherited a team that’s doing really well as there are only a few percentage to improve. But that last few percentage makes the difference between winning it, competing to the last day or ending up number three. Our aim should be that we want to win it and we want to be on top of the league.

“This is what we’re aiming for – to get the best out of the players to reach the maximum – and then the margins will decide. But to get in that position it takes a lot of hard work on a daily basis and we have to come in here and improve and improve and improve and improve.”

Liverpool’s new sporting director, Richard Hughes, sat alongside Slot and admitted that Feyenoord’s “front-foot, attacking football, played with intelligence and passion” not only made the Dutchman their first choice to succeed Klopp but suited the squad. Both men indicated there were unlikely to be wholesale changes this summer, given the quality at Slot’s disposal and the rebuilding work done last year.

Hughes would not give an update on the contract situations of Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold, all of whom have 12 months on their deals, other than to say: “The only concern I have, that Arne has, about those situations is that there is total commitment from the players to the cause for next season, and we are absolutely convinced that is the case.”

Slot said of his approach: “I don’t take over from a manager where I have to change the playing style completely. At my former club Feyenoord I would say the playing style was completely different [when he arrived] to the style I wanted to implement. Now there are a lot of similarities but of course I am not a clone of Jürgen. We will have some differences and I think the players will see them but also some similarities as well. Ideally I would have started in a season when there were no Euros and no Copa América but that’s not the situation and you have to take it the way it is. The good thing is after the first game we have a few normal [free] weeks so pre-season can continue into the season.”

Arne Slot with Liverpool’s sporting director Richard Hughes. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

Darwin Núñez has flourished at the Copa América with Uruguay and as the focal point of Marcelo Bielsa’s attack. Slot has spoken with the striker, who cut a frustrated figure under Klopp at the end of the last campaign, and suggested Núñez would have a fixed position at centre-forward.

“I assume he will fit really well into this [style] because I like him, I’ve told him already,” said Slot. “He might have had some struggles with finishing opportunities but he came a lot of times into those positions. It’s clear for him which position he is going to play. It’s clear for me as well. I just told him that, from what I saw, he played multiple positions and what positions – or position – I see him playing.”

Slot revealed he attended a game at Anfield in 2017, a 2-0 win over Tottenham when Sadio Mané scored twice. That was his only visit before being appointed Liverpool’s head coach. He said: “I knew Pepijn [Lijnders, former Liverpool assistant manager] for a long time and met him at the training ground. The club I was working with at the time, Cambuur Leeuwarden, had contact with Julian Ward [Liverpool’s former sporting director] about loan players.

“I was there as a professional but I enjoyed the game. I had a look and feel for the club, but not in a way that I would assume that seven years later I would be in this position. It was before they won the league and the Champions League but everyone was positive even back then without the team at that stage winning trophies.”

The Guardian

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