Feyenoord manager Arne Slot will be moving to Liverpool to replace Jürgen Klopp, so we have taken a look at the data behind the Dutch coach’s career to date.

Arne Slot has been confirmed as Jürgen Klopp’s successor at Liverpool.

The 45-year-old Dutchman will take over the reins at Anfield after Klopp’s departure, leaving his role as Feyenoord boss after a successful three seasons.

The inevitable comparisons between Slot and the charismatic German are already being made. There were no viable candidates out there with a body of work like Klopp’s when Liverpool hired him in 2015, but the club appear to at least have found someone with certain similarities.

Like Klopp, Slot was a decent but unremarkable player. It became apparent quite quickly that his coaching career would far exceed anything he achieved on the pitch.

Those familiar with the 45-year-old speak of his excellent communication, with a warmth and humour that resonates with fans and players alike.

As you will no doubt be aware, former Ajax, Inter and Everton player Andy van der Meyde has a YouTube show and podcast called Bij Andy in de Auto (In the Car with Andy). The former Netherlands international interviews people while driving them around, and a few months ago he had Slot ‘in de auto’ as his guest.

They discussed various topics, including Slot’s belief that players can become numb to the same training and instructions over time, which seems pertinent given Liverpool’s recent form that saw their Premier League title hopes disappear.

He also spoke about being influenced by the likes of Henk ten Cate, Marcel Keizer, and Henk de Jong, the alleged approaches of Tottenham and Chelsea last summer, which he batted away with a smirk, as well as his love of padel tennis.

In fact, Slot asked Feyenoord director Dennis te Kloese for a padel court to be built at the club’s training ground. It was agreed that he would get his wish if he won the Eredivisie title. Shortly after doing so in the 2022-23 season, the court was constructed.

Klopp is also a big fan of the sport, and also asked for a court to be included as part of Liverpool’s renovation of their AXA Training Centre. He had already won the league in 2019-20, so could make the request from a position of strength.

In different circumstances, Slot might have also won the title that year. He was in his first year of top-flight management, having been promoted from assistant to head coach at AZ Alkmaar for the start of the 2019-20 season. After 25 games, AZ were in second place, level on points with leaders Ajax with just nine games remaining. However, the season was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving only a sense of what might have been for a club that has only ever won two Eredivisie titles. Slot’s team was built on a solid defence, conceding just 17 goals in 25 games, six fewer than anyone else.

The 2020-21 season was not as impressive, with AZ in seventh place when Slot was sacked, but it wasn’t just for poor results. The club weren’t happy that their manager had been in negotiations to take over at Feyenoord the following campaign, so promptly dismissed him just three months into the season.

Slot replaced the experienced Dick Advocaat in Rotterdam, with Feyenoord having finished fifth the season before, 29 points behind champions Ajax.

In his first season at De Kuip, Slot won the Rinus Michels Award for the Eredivisie Manager of the Year despite finishing third in the table behind Erik ten Hag’s Ajax as well as PSV. They also reached the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League final, where they lost 1-0 to José Mourinho’s Roma in Tirana despite having more shots and far more possession.

Feyenoord lost several key players that summer, including Luis Sinisterra, Marcos Senesi, Tyrell Malacia and Fredrik Aursnes. Despite that, they won the Eredivisie title with ease in 2022-23, finishing seven points ahead of second-placed PSV to secure only their second title since the turn of the millennium. Slot became the third-youngest manager to guide Feyenoord to an Eredivisie title, after Giovanni van Bronckhorst (42) and Thijs Libregts (43).

Feyenoord won 42 points away from home during the season, the Dutch club’s highest such tally in their history, while they also scored in 31 consecutive Eredivisie games, their longest such streak since 1961 (37). They also reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League, thrashing Shakhtar Donetsk 7-1 in the second leg at De Kuip in the last 16, before being knocked out in the last eight by familiar foe Roma.

Feyenoord finished in second place in the Eredivisie in 2023-24, seven points behind champions PSV, though that was mostly due to the form of Peter Bosz’s side. Feyenoord actually beat their own points total from their title win last season by two points, and like the 2022-23 campaign, only lost two league games. They haven’t been beaten since 3 December.

Opta’s expected points model simulates the number of goals scored by each side in each match based on the expected goals (xG) value of every shot taken. It then uses the simulated number of goals to determine the match outcome (win/draw/loss). Each match is then simulated 10,000 times. The expected points for each team in each match can then be calculated based on the proportion of simulations they win/draw/lose.

Interestingly, the model suggests that Feyenoord should have finished pretty much level on points with PSV rather than seven behind (83.1 points to PSV’s 83.7), indicating that overperformance from Bosz’s side was the key difference this season.

Slot has experience managing in the UEFA Champions League, too, though his campaign ended in disappointment as they finished third in a group alongside Atlético Madrid, Lazio and Celtic, with their only two wins coming at home to the latter two (L4). However, Feyenoord were the only team to record more shots than their opponents in each of their UCL group games. They became the first team since Manchester United in 2015-16 to do so while failing to reach the knockout stage of the tournament.

They dropped into the Europa League play-off where they were beaten on penalties by, of course, Roma.

Feyenoord enjoyed a 6-0 thrashing of Ajax just last month. They played their old rival off the park, having 30 shots to the visitors’ one. Though the Amsterdam club have been in a bad way for most of the campaign, Feyenoord’s superiority was spectacular. Almost all of the goals came from high turnovers (winning the ball within 40m of the opposition’s goal), while more could have followed.

Feyenoord v Ajax stats

They did also lift more silverware recently as they beat NEC Nijmegen 1-0 in the final of the KNVB Cup.

Why Do Liverpool Want Arne Slot?

After a couple of years away, former Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards accepted a role with the club’s owners Fenway Sports Group, overseeing football operations. It was seen as a key move, with Edwards credited with signing many of the players who have made up Klopp’s best teams in recent years.

He led the hiring of incoming sporting director Richard Hughes from Bournemouth, with the pair reportedly managing a data-led recruitment process to replace Klopp along with the club’s director of research Will Spearman.

It therefore makes sense to investigate the numbers to see why they put Slot at the top of their list.

More experienced and established names would possibly have been available this summer, but it seems Liverpool were looking for the next big thing. It should be noted that former Feyenoord stars Senesi and Sinisterra (on loan from Leeds United) were signed for Bournemouth by Hughes, so it seems likely he was already familiar with Slot’s work.

The most eye-catching data is Feyenoord’s pressing under Slot. Last season, only Benfica (8.4) won possession more times in the final third per game than Feyenoord (7.8) of all teams in Europe’s top 10 leagues, with Liverpool doing so 5.7 times per game. Manchester City topped that metric this season (7.5), ahead of Cercle Brugge (7.0), Benfica (7.0) and Feyenoord (6.7), with Liverpool on 6.1.

The Reds (392) are third in Europe’s top five leagues for high turnovers behind Man City (416) and Tottenham (396), so it bodes well that Feyenoord have made just 16 fewer (376) from four fewer games, with Liverpool also just ahead of them for shot-ending high turnovers (71-65).

PSV have made more high turnovers (384) and had more shot-ending high turnovers (70) than Feyenoord, but Slot’s men have more goal-ending high turnovers (11-8). Feyenoord’s passes per defensive action (10.1), gives another indication as to how much and how well they press, with Liverpool (8.9) and Tottenham (8.8) the only Premier League teams with a better rate.

Feynoord high turnovers Eredivisie 23-24

As our expected points model suggests, despite winning the league last season and failing to do so this season, Feyenoord’s underlying numbers have actually improved. Being unable to overperform against those numbers is what has cost them. They accumulated a total of 66.3 xG for and 30.6 xG against in the Eredivisie in 2022-23, but with one game remaining in 2023-24 they have totals of 95.2 xG for and 26.4 xG against.

PSV (100.9) are the only team in Europe’s top 10 leagues to have recorded a higher xG this season than Feyenoord, while Slavia Prague (24.9) and Fenerbahçe (25.9) are the only teams to have a lower xG against.

Despite rumours linking former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso – who has decided to stay at Bayer Leverkusen – and Sporting CP’s Rúben Amorim to the Anfield hot seat, Slot arguably suits Liverpool’s squad better than both.

Alonso and Amorim prefer to play three at the back, and the group of players Klopp will leave behind isn’t exactly overrun with centre-backs, especially ones who have played in a three before. They do have plenty of midfielders though, so playing a system that has more midfielders than defenders in it makes sense.

Slot prefers a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation, the latter of which is of course the one Klopp has utilised at Liverpool in recent years. He likes his team to have possession of the ball. Feyenoord’s average possession in league games last season was 58.9%, and that has risen to 62.3% this season, slightly higher than Liverpool’s 61.3%.

Their zones of control are very similar, with Feyenoord actually enjoying a little more dominance than Liverpool on average, albeit against weaker opponents than Klopp’s side face in the Premier League.

Feyenoord zones of control
Liverpool zones of control 23-24

At AZ and Feyenoord, Slot has largely relied on a double pivot in midfield, and you could see Slot using the likes of Alexis Mac Allister, Wataru Endo, Curtis Jones, Ryan Gravenberch or, dare we say it, Trent Alexander-Arnold in such roles.

Alexander-Arnold may be likelier to stay at right-back, though, as Slot likes his full-backs to get forward and put in crosses. In his attack, he has favoured having a left footer cutting in from the right and a right footer cutting in from the left, which also suits the likes of Mohamed Salah, Luis Díaz, Cody Gakpo and Diogo Jota, while if he wants a number 10 he could turn to Dominik Szoboszlai, Harvey Elliott or even Fabio Carvalho, currently on loan at Hull City.

Slot likes rotation between his number 10 and his right forward, partly to create space for the right-back, which will be music to the ears of Liverpool’s vice-captain Alexander-Arnold.

Partly through the necessity of key players regularly being sold, but also as a show of faith, Slot is not afraid to back younger players. At the point Feyenoord won the league in 2022-23, only five members of his squad over the age of 25 had played at least 11 Eredivisie games, compared to 13 players under 25.

As you can see below, Slot is mainly putting his faith this season in players under 24, with goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther the only player older than 26 who has featured in at least 40% of games.

Feyenoord age matrix 23-24

That bodes well for a Liverpool squad that has seen a number of young players introduced by Klopp this season. That has been somewhat out of necessity due to injuries, but the likes of Conor Bradley, Jarell Quansah, Bobby Clark and Jayden Danns have all shown this season they deserve to be in the first-team squad, and should have a decent chance of staying there if Slot takes charge at Anfield.

Slot also tends to start well, which will be good news for Liverpool given how highly-competitive the Premier League is. At AZ he won 13 of his first 17 Eredivisie games (D2 L2) while at Feyenoord he won nine of his first 12 (D1 L2).

With a Dutch captain in Virgil van Dijk, as well as compatriots Gakpo and Gravenberch already at the club, Slot – who speaks very good English – likely wouldn’t have much trouble settling and getting buy-in from his new players.

One concern Liverpool fans might have is that Slot has only managed in the Eredivisie, which is not considered one of the top leagues in European football. In fact, according to our latest look at the Opta Power Rankings, the Dutch top flight is only eighth in Europe when taking into account the rankings of the top 10 teams.

Slot and Feyenoord have helped that rating as much as they can, though, with the club rising from well outside the top 100 to regularly appearing in the top 40 since his arrival in 2021.

Turning to Slot over more experienced and familiar names is a big call, on paper, but these decisions are why the owners worked so hard to convince Edwards to be a part of overseeing the post-Klopp era. The data does seem to point to a potentially stable handover, at the very least.

You would like to think his handover meeting with Klopp will take place with a friendly contest on the padel court in Kirkby.

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