From sorting Salah’s future to wooing the Kop: Slot’s Liverpool in-tray

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Mohamed Salah;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Mohamed Salah</a> (top left) and <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Darwin Núñez;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Darwin Núñez</a> (top right) are among the top-level talents Arne Slot will inherit when he takes over at Liverpool.</span><span>Composite: Guardian Picture Desk</span>

Embrace what you have inherited

Managers are seldom hired to take over a well-run, elite-level club not in urgent need of repair or transformation. Liverpool in 2024 represents one of those rare opportunities. Despite a disappointing end to his reign, Jürgen Klopp has bequeathed to his successor a fine squad, of a relatively young age, that developed faster than expected into a contender for the Premier League title, that knows how to win silverware and will be back in the Champions League next season after a one-year hiatus. And, as the Carabao Cup triumph demonstrated, there is a healthy flow of young talent rolling off the academy production line too. The internal structure of the club is also in good shape. There is no need to rip it up and start again, as David Moyes attempted to do when succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Liverpool’s recruitment search led them to Arne Slot because he offers a degree of continuity in playing style, among other attributes, but of course he must make his own modifications. Change is welcome, inevitable, but revolution on the playing side is not required. That being said …

Handle upheaval in the background

Several members of Slot’s backroom team at Feyenoord will follow him to Anfield. His assistant coach Sipke Hulshoff, who knows Virgil van Dijk, Cody Gakpo and Ryan Gravenberch well from his time with the Netherlands’ national team, head of performance Ruben Peeters and analyst Etienne Reijnen will also join Liverpool subject to work permits. Hulshoff resigned as Ronald Koeman’s No 2 last week to be available for the start of pre-season training with Liverpool rather than concentrating on the Euros. But there are many more holes to fill at Liverpool. There are half a dozen departures from Klopp’s inner coaching circle alone. The assistant managers Peter Krawietz and Pepijn Lijnders – the new head coach of RB Salzburg – elite development coach Vitor Matos, goalkeeping coach John Achterberg and his assistant Jack Robinson have left. Dr Andreas Schlumberger, the head of recovery and performance who worked with Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, has gone a year before his contract was due to expire. Andreas Kornmayer, the head of fitness and conditioning, is another departure. Klopp’s ability to delegate to specialists and appoint some of the best in their field played a big part in his success. Departures may go beyond the usual coaching churn that accompanies a manager’s exit and, with Richard Hughes officially starting as Liverpool’s sporting director now the season is over, he and Slot have to work on an influx of new faces behind the scenes.

Establish a connection with the Kop

Forget trying to replicate the bond that Klopp forged with Liverpool supporters. There is no one who could replace the man who made Liverpool believe again in that regard, although Slot does exude his own charisma. But a Liverpool manager does not have to possess Klopp’s force of personality, humour, worldview and fondness for a pint in The Freshfield pub to be embraced at Anfield. Winning helps, obviously, and if fans can also buy into the new manager’s approach then the fickle world of football will move on quickly. It always does. But Liverpool fans need to believe in their manager completely and a Liverpool manager must fight his and their corner at all times. There must be a connection. Be authentic, don’t bullshit. Rafael Benítez had that solid relationship with the Kop and he was as far removed from Klopp’s character as it is possible to be. Roy Hodgson never did. Klopp has helped his successor by using his farewell address at Anfield on Sunday to urge fans to give Slot their total backing and getting the crowd to sing Slot’s name before the appointment was confirmed.

Address the futures of Salah and Núñez

It was not a vintage season for Mohamed Salah by any means, certainly after sustaining a hamstring injury at the Africa Cup of Nations in January, and his petulant behaviour at West Ham did him no favours. A touch of humility after several poor performances and respect for the manager who made him a superstar would not have gone amiss. But Salah remains vitally important to Liverpool on and off the pitch. The Egypt international was once again the team’s leading scorer with an impressive 25 goals. He was instrumental in propelling Klopp’s new-look team into title contention before suffering the first extended layoff of his Liverpool career. But – and it is a considerable but – Salah will have 12 months remaining on a contract worth a basic £350,000-a-week this summer. Will Liverpool be more receptive to offers than they were last summer when rejecting Al-Ittihad’s staggering, world-record £150m bid? Will they try to extend the Anfield career of a global star who turns 32 in June in the absence of another serious play from the Saudi Pro League? Or will Salah sit tight and see out the final year of his lucrative deal? One of those decisions has to be made. Slot also needs to get to the heart of Darwin Núñez’s recent issues. The centre-forward’s erratic finishing stretched the patience of the Liverpool crowd and manager over the final months of the season, with the potential club record signing starting only one of Klopp’s last seven games. Núñez made his frustration clear by deleting most Liverpool images from his Instagram account. He was also the only Liverpool player not to applaud Klopp when the departing manager received a guard of honour on Sunday. The striker’s annoyance may be confined to his former manager but his new one, who wants to try to improve Núñez, needs to be sure of the Uruguay international’s commitment.

Improve support for Van Dijk in defence

Slot operated with a 4-2-3-1 at Feyenoord and so any shift away from Klopp’s 4-3-3 would require a second midfielder to sit deeper – more opportunity for Trent Alexander-Arnold perhaps – and both central defenders to be comfortable in possession to build up play, as the new manager demands. While the developing Jarell Quansah is good on the ball, one costly lapse at Old Trafford notwithstanding, Ibrahima Konaté can struggle under pressure. An inconsistent fitness record has also impeded the France international’s progress at Anfield. Van Dijk recaptured his commanding form this season but with Joël Matip going Liverpool require another top-class, dominant central defender to share the load with the club captain.