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Pep Guardiola leaves, Darwin Núñez explodes - Liverpool first year under Arne Slot in dream scenario

Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City looks dejected after the Emirates FA Cup Final match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2024 in London, England.
-Credit: (Image: Michael Regan - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)


Liverpool is set to begin a new era under Arne Slot. He joins at a fascinating time, with Arsenal having muscled in on the Manchester City rivalry that has defined Jürgen Klopp's time at the helm — but there are question marks over how much longer Pep Guardiola will be sticking around, too.

The hope is that Slot will be able to pick up more or less where Klopp left off. It's reasonable to be braced for some kind of transitional period, but Liverpool would ideally once again be in the frame with those two sides. What exactly would a dream first year look like for the new manager?

Liverpool has undergone ambitious restructuring behind the scenes, bringing back best-in-class executive Michael Edwards to oversee FSG footballing operations. He will lead a team very much concerned with ensuring the club can be competitive over the long term, and if Slot can help to lay the foundations for that in his first campaign, it would surely go down as a success, regardless of the exact trophy count.

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Of course, the Liverpool approach is far more sophisticated than merely waiting for Guardiola to leave, and it intends to maintain and further develop a side that has already proved itself capable of going toe-to-toe with Manchester City. But there's no denying that it would be a boost for Slot if his maiden season at the helm ended with the Catalan stepping aside.

Just as Liverpool is bracing for a jolt after losing Klopp, there's no denying the Etihad outfit will also be rocked by the loss of a generational manager. Per the Daily Mail, Guardiola is expected to leave at the end of next season, and that could make Slot's life easier in terms of breaking up the dominance of the four-in-a-row Premier League champions.

Arguably, the onus would then be on Mikel Arteta and Arsenal to enjoy a period of success, having had longer on its current journey. But if all goes to plan, Slot will be more than ready to take on that challenge by his second season at Liverpool, with Guardiola conveniently out of the frame.

But the bigger focus by far will be on the things that are in Slot's control at Liverpool. One of them is getting the best out of Darwin Núñez.

Liverpool has been awaiting the striker's 'explosion' from the moment he arrived, but the form that saw him excel at Benfica has never quite shown itself at Anfield. Patience with Núñez and his wayward finishing waned towards the end of Klopp's last season, with the manager primarily relegating him to the bench.

Yet the sky-high potential is still painfully apparent. Erling Haaland is the only one who can touch Núñez in terms of reliably getting into excellent goal-scoring positions, and if Slot can find the way to get him scoring even an average number of those chances, it will significantly help Liverpool's case in trying to prevent Guardiola from winning five titles in a row.

Away from the domestic front, Liverpool is also back in the Champions League, and Slot would go some way to reassuring doubters by doing well there. A run to the latter stages would be very encouraging — the Feyenoord boss has done well in Europe before, reaching the inaugural Conference League final, but this is his chance to prove he can really mix it with the big boys.

Whatever happens with Guardiola and Núñez, this season is clearly a huge opportunity for Slot. He's joining a club that is set up to succeed, even more so after a summer of backroom changes, and Liverpool will be sorely hoping that his first year goes to plan.