Emerging from Klopp’s Shadow: Can Liverpool Find Success Under Slot?

You cannot blame any Liverpool fans for feeling a bit nervous about what the future holds following the departure of Jürgen Klopp. They only have to look at what happened to Manchester United when they waved goodbye to Alex Ferguson. The Scot left following a title-winning campaign yet in the 10 seasons that have followed, the Red Devils have not come close to another. It would not be unfair to say the Ferguson-less decade has been a nightmare, full of disappointment and frustration both on and off the pitch.

The situation at Arsenal was rather different as when Arsène Wenger departed, it was very much a welcome change. The club were not exactly thriving under the Frenchman’s leadership towards the end, having missed out on Champions League qualification two years running. Even so, the post-Wenger rebuild took some time as they only got back into Europe’s top competition on the fifth attempt.

Will Liverpool suffer a similar hangover in their post-Klopp world, or can new boss Arne Slot ensure the good times keep on coming at Anfield?

Filling Big Shoes

History tells us that managers whose predecessors enjoyed a lengthy stay at the club have not tended to last very long. The below table lists the six longest managerial reigns at a Premier League club (excluding Klopp) and how long their replacement lasted.

Club Departing Manager Replacement Manager New Manager Tenure
Arsenal Arsène Wenger (1996-2018) Unai Emery Less than 1.5 seasons
Man Utd Alex Ferguson (1992-2013) David Moyes Less than 1 season
Everton David Moyes (2002-2013) Roberto Martinez Just under 3 seasons
Wimbledon Joe Kinnear (1992-1999) Egil Olsen Less than 1 season
West Ham Harry Redknapp (1994-2001) Glenn Roeder Just over 2 seasons
Liverpool Rafael Benitez (2004-2010) Roy Hodgson Half a season

To an extent, this can simply be explained by the fact that most managers do not last a long time whoever they follow. The long-stints are the exception to the rule so it is little surprise that most replacements do not end up sticking around for an extended period. There is an extra challenge though that comes with any manager following in the footsteps of a long-term name. Often expectations can have been raised or sometimes it is just the fact that people within the club struggle to adjust to the change.

Challenges can be overcome though so what is to say that Slot cannot be a mainstay at Anfield for years to come? Let us look at both sides of the argument.

Yes – Slot Can Be a Liverpool Success

Thumbs upOne big factor Slot has going for him is that he is joining a well-run club. Yes, Liverpool have been spearheaded by the charismatic Klopp since 2015 but behind the scenes, things run smoothly and efficiently. The club have purchased well, are in a comfortable position financially and have a good youth set-up producing exciting talent. When Ferguson left Man United, by contrast, he left a far bigger hole because he was a more integral figure in the operation, heavily involved in buying and selling players.

There is also plenty to said about Slot himself as he is a manager with a relatively short but impressive track record. He managed to get AZ Alkmaar to finish second in the 2019/20 Eredivisie and by the time of his departure averaged 2.11 points per game, the highest in the club’s history. It was this that attracted the interest of his now former club, Feyenoord. The Rotterdam giants were struggling at the time but Slot turned them around. In his first full season in charge, he recorded 71 points, the club’s highest total in five years, and then won the title with 82 points the year after.

There was no successful title defence in the 2023/24 (despite collecting 84 points) as PSV were simply too strong, but he did lift the KNVB Cup. Overall, Feyenoord fans are sad to see him go because he brought successful and attractive football to the club, as well as being a generally likeable figure. You may not think a good personality is a particularly important trait but it can help keep the fans on board for longer when positive results are not coming. This is also true for Slot’s style of football, which will go down well if he can successfully implement it.

No – Slot Will Not Succeed at Anfield

Thumbs downWhile this is not a Moyes at Man United situation as we explained earlier, there are a couple of similarities. The main one is that Slot will be inheriting a squad not at the peak of its powers. Lynchpin of the defence, Virgil van Dijk, will be 33 by the time the next season starts and fellow centre-back Joel Matip has bid his farewell to the club. Mohamed Salah is also on the wrong side of 30 now and has looked a shadow of his usual self since the Africa Cup of Nations.

Still, Slot does have a good first eleven at his disposal but there is not a great deal of squad depth compared to rival clubs. Liverpool will not be constrained by FFP regulations if wanting to splash out but how willing FSG will be to loosen their pursestrings remains to be seen. The Reds will certainly remain a very attractive club to prospective targets but losing Klopp may hurt their appeal a little, as many players admire the German himself.

Slot will benefit from some reduced expectations but there is a limit to this. Fans will not be calling for his head if the club ends up finishing fourth, for example, but dropping out of the Champions League places will see him under real pressure. Fans may say otherwise now but you only have to look at how Pochettino fared to see football fans are not the most patient breed, even during a supposed rebuild.

The bookmakers have Liverpool odds-on (1/2) to finish in the top four but this is not a bet we would rush to make. Newcastle and Chelsea both had to deal with an outrageous number of injuries which harmed their campaigns last year. By avoiding such misfortune next season, you can expect improvements for both, especially the Blues given the young age of their side. Elsewhere it would not be a shock to see Man United improve given their new ownership nor Tottenham if Ange Postecoglou’s managerial record is anything to go by.

Liverpool very comfortably made the top four last season but this was a Klopp-inspired overachievement given their situation. Needing a period of adaptation combined with improving rivals could make the battle for the top four a lot more challenging in the upcoming campaign.

Only Time Will Tell…

Slot is clearly a competent and likeable manager taking over at a well-run club, so it is hard to think things will be a complete and utter disaster. That said, it would be reasonable to expect the Reds to suffer something of a dip, at least over the short term, as Klopp was such a special character who regularly overperformed with the tools he had available.

How noticeable this dip will be will depend on summer recruitment. If Liverpool sign well and the current players buy into the Slot philosophy then the Dutchman may be able to spend at least a few seasons at Anfield and quite possibly win a few trophies.