Liverpool face unique Arne Slot risk as decision hints at FSG transfer strategy

Arne Slot
Arne Slot could be Liverpool's next manager -Credit:ProShots/Icon Sport via Getty Images

While it appears that nothing has yet been signed with regards to the man who would be the successor to Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, all signs are pointing to Arne Slot.

After months of speculation around the like of Xabi Alonso and Ruben Amorim, it is the 45-year-old Dutchman, the current boss of Eredivisie side Feyenoord who is the frontrunner. On Thursday evening, Slot confirmed his intention to become the next Liverpool manager.

"It's no secret that I want to go to Liverpool," he told reporters. "The clubs are negotiating. We have to wait until an agreement is reached, but I have every confidence in that." A compensation package of more than £10million is likely to be required to prise him from the Rotterdam club.

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Despite having been linked with the Tottenham Hotspur job last year before Ange Postecoglou took over, Slot was seen as something of an outside bet to be in the running to replace Klopp. His CV so far is limited to the Dutch top tier, albeit with some considerable success.

Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have placed an enormous amount of faith in Michael Edwards to lead on the managerial search, with FSG creating a new ‘CEO of Football’ role, one that also includes the acquisition of another football club, to coax Edwards back into the fold after he departed his previous role as sporting director with the club back in 2022.

Finding the right candidate to deliver success to Liverpool is vital, and it remains in FSG’s very best interests to keep the Reds competing for the biggest prizes in world club football from a financial standpoint. That’s why they placed so much importance on ensuring that they had who they felt was the right person, who understood the strategy, to make the next hire.

From a financial perspective, that strategy is also significant. Some of the names that had been linked with Liverpool after it was announced that Klopp would be leaving were managers whose style maybe didn’t gel as well with the players that existed within the current squad, or those who develop through the academy where a specific way of playing has been implemented for some time now.

Slot is seen as a progressive coach, one whose teams play in a similar fashion to the way Klopp has implemented with his teams down the years.

Tumult is not desirable for team owners. When one manager comes in who has a completely different playing style to the last, and they are handed the keys to determine recruitment, what tends to happen is that it leads to decline. The players from previous regimes are left, on onerous and expensive contracts, and it becomes a squad full of other peoples' men.

This is something that FSG are likely to want to avoid. The team needs a new manager, but it doesn’t need an overhaul. It is a working machine, that has functioning parts across the board. That is largely due to the strategy that has been put in place being one where the club and manager were aligned.

Moving players on from other managers can be a challenge, and profit can be hard to come by when moving on players who are no longer required.

The recruitment strategy under a new manager, whether that is Slot or another candidate, will likely see the power remain largely in the hands of a number of people through committee, based on data analytics, as opposed to the kind of approach seen at Manchester United in recent years, where it was the manager who determined the recruitment.

Traditionally, it was always the manager who had ultimate control. The sums in football and the financial risk involved in making mistakes mean that this has become less prevalent. Mistakes in the market can be costly from both a competitive standpoint and a financial one, with onerous contracts hard to dispose of.

The move from ‘manager’ to ‘head coach’ in terms of terminology has been borne from the notion that those at the top should be interchangeable: bosses can fail; a run of six defeats on the spin can come out of nowhere. The idea is for clubs that haven’t been negligent is that the strategy should remain, and instead of a costly root and branch review and total upheaval, they can find a candidate to get all the instruments playing in harmony once again.

In terms of Klopp’s exit there is an obvious difference. He is leaving on his own terms, with a fine squad that is capable of great things in the future. Finding a manager who they feel can guide what is there rather than try and make wider changes has probably led them to cross a few names off the list of potential candidates.

Whether it is Slot or another candidate, and whether or not they will be a success, is a total unknown. From an FSG perspective, however, minimising the potential risk will likely follow a similar approach to that of the club’s player recruitment policy.

No owners want to sack managers, especially when they know what follows sacked managers and severance payouts is usually the requirement for heavier transfer spend as it is often correcting failure.

FSG have long had the knack across their business interests of hiring the right people in the right places. The appointment of Klopp, despite some some initially negative opinions on social media, was one borne from deep analysis of who he was and what he could bring to the table, not just pure chance.

This next hire will arguably be even more difficult, and they will be doing it from a position that few have to; one where there isn’t much wrong, and where success feels within grasp. There is more risk for both sides.