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Arne Slot & Liverpool: Can third choice really prove best choice?

COMMENT: So can third-choice work out to be best choice? Certainly, Liverpool will be hoping so with a deal for Arne Slot now into it's final stages with Feyenoord...

But it's done. Settled. Slot, baring any late mishap, will be named new Liverpool manager. Feyenoord's Eredivisie winning coach has already agreed terms with the Reds and also has a deal in place with his current club about the number of staff he will take with him to England.

As we say, Slot is strictly third-choice. After the much-publicised snub from Xabi Alonso at Bayer Leverkusen - and Sporting CP coach Ruben Amorim's decision to pull back over 'control' issues - Liverpool turned to Slot and were greeted with an immediate enthusiastic response. So much so that there's hope that after just days of negotiations Liverpool and Feyenoord will be able to confirm agreement by the weekend.

With Slot's contract carrying a €10m buyout clause, Liverpool are attempting to talk down that fee with their Feyenoord counterparts. Knowing Slot's eagerness to see the deal closed - and the loyalty he showed last season turning down Tottenham - there is a confidence Feyenoord will be malleable over the final compensation.

In the meantime, as Liverpool's new football CEO Michael Edwards had warned Slot in their first meeting, there is a backroom staff to fill out. Klopp's departure will coincide with his coaching staff also leaving. As mentioned in past columns, it's a strange one, but Liverpool's incoming manager will be required to complete a full rebuild. But they won't all come from Rotterdam.

As of today, Slot and the Feyenoord board have agreed that only two of his staff will join him at Liverpool: assistant coach Sipke Hulshoff and high performance manager Ruben Peeters. As a source stated: “Slot has been informed by Liverpool management about the exodus of technical people and that has everything to do with the fact that the entire Team Klopp is resigning."

For their part, unlike with Liverpool, Feyenoord's board "... will not be flexible, just like with Slot himself, because the club does not want to reorganise a complete coaching panel". Again, on Liverpool's part, it's a strange one...

But they have their man, do Liverpool. Well, at least their third choice. And it's a gamble - for both sides. Slot isn't the Klopp of 2015. Nor is the Eredivisie the Bundesliga. The step up will be huge for the 45 year-old. Liverpool have really gone with potential. What they hope can be. This isn't Klopp, nor Rafa Benitez nor Gerard Houllier. Even comparisons with Brendan Rodgers are a stretch. That Slot, unlike Xabi and Amorim, hasn't been mentioned with the jobs at Barcelona or Bayern Munich - nor with any major club this season - does raise doubts. Indeed, just yesterday Peter Bosz was asked why he wasn't considered given his PSV are nine points clear of Feyenoord at the top of table.

"Yes, but that didn't happen," replied PSV's coach. “Liverpool is of course a big club, so if it all works out, that would be great for Arne. He is more than welcome!"

Though just as much for Liverpool, it is also a gamble for Slot. It was only a year ago he turned down Tottenham, feeling he wasn't quite ready for such a move. A year on. A title won. And a first Champions League campaign experienced. Slot feels better equipped to take on a Premier League post. And to be fair, as a manager, you don't turn down Liverpool.

But what will Slot be walking into? Liverpool will end the season with more questions than answers. A first defeat in 14 years to Everton. Beaten at home by Crystal Palace - and by Atalanta to end their Europa League run. One question to be raised by this dramatic fall is: just how reliant has Klopp and Liverpool been on a fully fit and in-form Mohamed Salah?

This cannot be underestimated. If Salah does leave for the Saudi Pro League this summer, how will Liverpool respond? How will Slot respond? The pressure and expectations around succeeding Klopp is one thing. But trying to succeed without perhaps the most decisive player to wear a Reds shirt this century...? As we say, this is a career gamble for Slot.

"I am a fan of another football," said Slot before facing Jose Mourinho's Roma earlier this season.

"I can appreciate Mourinho, despite being a (Pep) Guardiola fan. If you really enjoy watching Guardiola's football, that doesn't mean you can't appreciate what another manager is doing."

Words and an attitude sure to be welcomed by the Kop. But you fancy, they'll have to be patient with their new manager. Arne Slot isn't the Klopp of 2015. There's no guarantees here. Liverpool can only hope that third-choice can eventually work out to be best choice.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie


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