05.07.2024 13:19 h

Slot unfazed by pressure of replacing Klopp at Liverpool

Liverpool's new manager Arne Slot insists he can cope with the pressure of following in the footsteps of Anfield icon Jurgen Klopp.

Slot has the daunting task of trying to emulate Klopp's remarkably successful nine-year reign at Liverpool.

Before his shock decision to step down at the end of last season, Klopp led Liverpool to a host of major trophies, including their first Premier League title in 30 years and the Champions League crown in 2019.

Slot is tasked with maintaining the sky-high standards set by Klopp and the 45-year-old Dutchman is confident he can rise to the challenge.

Speaking at his first press conference since his arrival from Feyenoord in June, Slot was asked if it was intimidating to follow Klopp.

"Not at all actually. You can look at it both ways, big shoes to fill but you inherit a squad that has a winning culture. One of the reasons to come here is I do feel we are a real good squad," he said.

"You want to work at a club with an opportunity to win something, the past has shown there is an opportunity to win trophies.

"When he arrived he said he was the normal one but it was anything but normal. What was special was what he left behind, winning trophies and the style of play.

"Yes I'm following someone who was really successful but there are really good players here and I like to work with them."

Slot, who won 98 of his 150 games with Feyenoord, is Liverpool's 21st permanent manager.

He joins the Reds at an intriguing time, with Klopp leaving a squad that finished nine points behind Premier League champions Manchester City after collapsing in the final weeks of the title race.

Liverpool won the League Cup in Klopp's farewell season but his overhaul of a team that had grown old under his leadership is likely to remain a work in progress in Slot's first season.

"There were a few new signings last year. The longer they play together the more they will improve," Slot said.

"If you work in this league everyone gets better every season. It's important to improve. It's normal if you work in the biggest league in the world."

With City having won the Premier League in six of the last seven seasons and Arsenal emerging as their strongest challengers, Slot faces a tough task to emulate Klopp's 2020 title triumph.

Klopp's rivalry with City boss Pep Guardiola provided some of the defining moments of his Liverpool reign.

But Slot, who led Feyenoord to the Dutch title in 2023 but finished in second place last season, wisely opted against any bold declarations when asked about the prospect of pitting wits with Guardiola.

"I've seen a lot of that rivalry. It's something to look forward to but I think there are many other good managers here. Pep is one of them for sure," he said.

Slot's commitment to an attacking, high-tempo style similar to Klopp's game-plan was significant in the decision to hire him.

But he intends to be his own man, rather than copying the motivational ploys of the charismatic and emotional Klopp.

"It is nothing to do with being the successor to Jurgen. It is part of the job. I don't think 'what would he say'. I think how to get the best out of the team," Slot said.

And while Klopp's relationship with the city of Liverpool was love at first sight, Slot will take a more pragmatic approach.

"It takes some time to understand everything. It helps to know the city but as a manager it helps more to win your games," he said

"Our styles are similar. We both like the fans to come and see a team that plays with a lot of energy and good football.

"That's the thing I'm focused on first. If we do that, it will give me some time and then I can get to know the city better."