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Pep Guardiola exit will leave Man City in unwanted position Jurgen Klopp avoided at Liverpool

Of the 11 different Premier League-winning managers, five led their side to title glory in their first season in charge.

From that quintet, three were in charge of Chelsea (Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, and Antonio Conte). Evidently, the Londoners became immune to their ever-changing dugout during Roman Abramovich’s ownership of the club! A fact perhaps demonstrated further by the fact both Italians lost their jobs at the end of their second seasons at Stamford Bridge after failing to deliver back-to-back titles.

From the remaining two, one is Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City, courtesy of the Foxes’ 5,000-1 freak-of-nature 2015/16 campaign, just a year after narrowly avoiding relegation. Like his two aforementioned compatriots, the Italian also lost his job the following year, though it only lasted until February 2017.

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Which leaves us with Manuel Pellegrini, after his Man City side took advantage of a Liverpool slip-up to be crowned champions in 2013/14. It would be the Chilean’s only league title during his three years in charge of the Etihad.

It’s curious that if asked to compile a list of the Premier League’s greatest managerial legends, Mourinho is the only one to lift the title at the first time of asking. While that certainly doesn’t dismiss the achievements of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp, and Pep Guardiola, whose respective reigns lasted far longer than the Portuguese, the quartet had to build up to forging their long-term legacies.

Consequently, it would be a surprise if Arne Slot was to lead Liverpool to the Premier League title in his first season in charge after succeeding Klopp.

After all, Rafa Benitez is the only Reds manager in the Premier League era to have even won a trophy during his first 12 months with the club - never mind genuinely challenged for the title.

Usually, when a new manager comes in at Anfield, it means a period of transition. At the end of Graeme Souness’ first season in charge - the last English top-flight campaign before the introduction of the Premier League - Liverpool finished sixth. It was their lowest league finish since 1981 and only the second time they had finished outside of the top two since a third-place finish in 1972.

When Roy Evans took over from the Scot in January 1994, his first season ended in eighth. Gerrard Houllier’s maiden campaign, initially serving alongside the long-standing Scouser, concluded with a seventh-place finish.

Benitez’s Reds finished fifth in 2004/05, with only an improbable, albeit historic, Champions League win earning qualification to the following year’s tournament.

Roy Hodgson was sacked after just six months in charge in January 2011, as Sir Kenny Dalglish steered Liverpool to a sixth-place finish. The following year, the Reds were eighth, with Brendan Rodgers leading them to seventh in his own first season in charge in 2012/13.

And while Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool would reach both the League Cup and Europa League finals during his first season in charge after replacing Rodgers in October 2015, losing both, his Reds side mustered an eighth place finish.

Granted, the squad Slot will inherit is far greater than any of his Premier League predecessors. It is a young squad capable of winning trophies and set to get better with age, that will only need minor tweaking to improve rather than complete overhaul.

While it is the toughest job to succeed Klopp, the Dutchman at least starts from a position of strength. But he will still be afforded a period of grace during his first season in charge.

Liverpool won the League Cup, were chasing a quadruple as late as March and still remained genuine Premier League title-challenges heading into April during Klopp’s final campaign, before being forced to settle for a trailing third place finish. Realistically, with the Reds now led by their first new boss for nine years, supporters would not be surprised if the initial expectation under Slot was more along the lines of simple Champions League qualification before pushing on further in 2025/26. That would still require a more successful maiden Premier League campaign than any of his predecessors.

But with Guardiola reportedly expected to follow Klopp’s example and step down himself after nine years at the Etihad in 2025, the German’s timing could work in Liverpool’s favour.

Having won four Premier League titles in a row, Man City will surely be favourites again next season in what could be Guardiola’s final year in charge. Consequently, Slot will quietly be afforded the time to get his feet under the table at Anfield.

Heading into 2025/26 with his own grip on Liverpool, having stepped out of Klopp’s shadow after a year in charge, Slot’s Reds can perhaps be more fairly judged. But when they head into that second campaign, City could be embarking on their own period of transition, should Guardiola indeed depart at the end of his contract.

Of course, it’s not just the Spaniard whose City career is closer to its end than start. Kevin De Bruyne is also out of contract in 2025, by which point he will be closing in on his 34th birthday. Meanwhile, a 35-year-old Kyle Walker, 31-year-old John Stones, 31-year-old Ederson, and 30-year-old Bernardo Silva will only have one year left on their own deals.

And by that point, Ruben Dias will have just turned 28, while Rodri will be closing in on his 29th birthday. Nathan Ake will be 30, with Manuel Akanji and Jack Grealish only a few months behind.

Erling Haaland, Phil Foden, Josko Gvardiol, Jeremy Doku, and Julian Alvarez might still provide a youthful edge, heading towards their own peak years, but Guardiola’s last City side will require major surgery. Facing 115 charges for allegedly breaching the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules, the ability to revamp their ageing squad could be further complicated.

Consequently, it is by no means guaranteed that Guardiola’s would-be successor will be free to just pick up where the Spaniard left off. Finishing third in his own first season in 2016/17, 15 points off champions Chelsea, it will be a big ask for City’s next manager to succeed where their current legendary manager, and so many other Premier League managerial greats, once fell short.

Should City enter a period of transition under a new manager, while also looking to overhaul an ageing squad who have previously won everything, Liverpool can only hope that Slot has his own side in a position to take advantage. They will be a year closer to their peak years at least, and boast a year under the Dutchman under their belts.

And should City be found guilty of any of their 115 charges and punished accordingly, when the time comes, the Reds need to be in a position to pounce even more. After a decade of Guardiola vs Klopp domination, it could be decisive as to who comes out on top next in this next era of Premier League football.

Liverpool are heading into the unknown under Slot, but such waters are poised to hit City even harder. Klopp’s decision to stand down this summer has ultimately given the Reds a head start in the long-term against their bitter title-rivals, even if Slot’s side now have to come through a period of transition as unscathed as possible first.

The squad the Dutchman inherits at least, as things stands, looks to be in a better position to challenge for future success going forward compared to the one Guardiola is poised to leave behind at the Etihad.

Surgery on an ageing squad has already taken place, with Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk the only two elder statesmen left standing who require long-term successors. That is partly why the German was now both happy and ready to step down in the first place, having brought together a younger 'Liverpool 2.0' before passing on the baton.

As a result, while Klopp might only have one Premier League winner's medal to show for his efforts during his nine years at Anfield, he could still end up enjoying one last victory over Man City, long after leaving Liverpool and riding off into the sunset.