What makes Slot so highly regarded?
Arne Slot was already highly-regarded in the Netherlands for a long time. It was only a matter of time – and winning the league with Feyenoord – before the big leagues would notice. Slot wasn’t a great footballer himself, but as soon as he made the step to management, everybody who worked with him was impressed – even when he was ‘just’ an assistant.
He was assistant at rather small clubs like PEC Zwolle (youth coach), SC Cambuur (assistant). He was an assistant at AZ before becoming head coach. Even then, there was some talk that he was de facto head coach.
In his first year as manager at AZ, they almost won the league. Ajax were struggling, but then Covid intervened – and after Ajax won their last match pre-Covid, they were handed first place based on goal difference. They weren’t named champions but did qualify for the Champions League.
No one can say Slot didn’t do a good job at Feyenoord. He was outstanding. Don’t forget: Feyenoord were a shambles when he took over. A real shambles, thanks to Jaap Stam and Dick Advocaat. Even their best player, Steven Berghuis, chose to flee to bitter rivals Ajax. There must have been amateur clubs at the time with better management. He had to start from zero, from scratch, at Feyenoord there was nothing left to build on…
Slot did a good job last year when Feyenoord reached the final of the UEFA Conference League, but what happened after? All the good players left, one by one – Luis Sinisterra, Marcos Senesi, Tyrell Malacia and Fredrik Aursnes.
Thanks to Slot and thus the performance of the team, Feyenoord banked good money for the first time for a long time. Feyenoord aren’t a rich club and they had lots of financial difficulties in the past, but thanks to Slot, they’re now healthy again.
And they had a good summer in the transfer market. Because of the fact a lot of players left, they had to bring in a lot of new players as well. Normally Feyenoord are not so good at this aspect, but last summer they hit the jackpot. Every player they bought, most for not much money, were a hit. Quinten Timber, David Hancko, Igor Paixao, Javairo Dilrosun, Santiago Gimenez, Sebastian Szymanski, Ezequiel Bullaude, Neraysho Kasanwirjo, Marcos Lopez, Mats Wieffer, Danilo and Oussama Idrissi.
But it’s too easy to claim their success is only thanks to the transfer market as players like Justin Bijlow, Lutsharel Geertruida, Quilindschy Hartman and Orkun Kokcu are all homegrown.
New players or homegrown…Slot has made every player better. Without exception. Feyenoord should be so happy to have (had) Slot. Without him, the club would probably still be nowhere. There have been rumours Ajax was in the market for Slot as well, which is the biggest compliment Feyenoord can get.
Normally, Ajax fans laugh at Feyenoord managers, for the first time in half a century they’re jealous…It’s completely the other way around: Ajax had a Feyenoord-like year, Feyenoord had a successful Ajax-like season and won the league.
What is his preferred style and which Tottenham players would suit his system?
The Dutch school of football is built on organised and attacking football. This has been the case for years and years, but it was too much for Feyenoord to deliver. Slot took them to the next level. His football style is Pep Guardiola-inspired, but also thoughtful. He steadied the ship in terms of defence, but Dutch football is synonymous with attacking football. Therefore Slot wants to attack as well. It’s just nature, but as much as he wants to attack….Slot doesn’t forget a solid defence.
You can’t obliviously attack, attack, attack. Dutch managers like Frank de Boer and Peter Bosz were like this – Erik ten Hag wasn’t and Slot isn’t. It’s almost like Dutch coaches matured. Slot is a natural successor to Ten Hag as an exponent of new generation Dutch managers. When you have a steady defence and all players know what to do, you can go on and play attacking football.
Definitely Ajax, possibly PSV and maybe even AZ, have better individual players than Feyenoord, but they can’t deliver as a team. One plus one doesn’t always equal two, but at Feyenoord there’s a team that equals 11 and that has been their real strength this season. If Slot offers Spurs players clarity, a vision and makes them work together again to be better overall, he can achieve quite a lot.
Is it true he is crazy about Pep Guardiola?
It is! It almost feels like Guardiola is Slot’s idol. This isn’t something new. Slot was already a Guardiola follower when he was still a player at PEC Zwolle. He would watch Guardiola’s team play in the league or Champions League and would come back to the training pitch to discuss things that stood out to him. PEC players obviously were nowhere near good enough to feature in any Guardiola team, but Slot and some more experienced players would talk about Guardiola’s new features for ages.
“I got the impression Slot was watching FC Barcelona all day and night”, Bert Konterman said in ‘Algemeen Dagblad’ newspaper. Konterman was technical manager when Slot was playing at PEC. “He was watching the positional play, the way they took on free-kicks. When he arrived at the club the next morning, he was so excited what he had seen!”
Slot gave some insights to ‘Voetbal International’ about similarities between himself and Pep.
“I don’t want to compare myself with Pep at all, but he’s a control freak just like me. If I look at myself, I want to win a match during the week before kick-off. I try to imprint the chosen tactic to my players as much as I can.
“That’s why I can be very frustrated when a referee even makes the slightest mistake to your disadvantage. This can have so much influence while you’re not able to control anything. All preparation can be ruined because of a referee mistake. This can be my biggest frustration!
“Guardiola gives me the ultimate pleasure in football. I’d rather watch Manchester City than any other team in the world, although now I enjoy watching Napoli, Arsenal and Brighton as well. I don’t want to compare Feyenoord with City, but we more or less play football according to the same philosophy: 4-3-3, building up from the back, wanting to put pressure on the opponent rather quickly. There are quite a few similarities of which I think: can I steal some of this? But I always make sure that it fits with my own players.”
Why would he risk going to Tottenham, given the club is in turmoil and Harry Kane could leave?
It’s the same as Erik ten Hag really when he joined Manchester United. United was in turmoil and it hadn’t really much to do with football. We’re one year in and look at what Ten Hag has achieved. Obviously there were a few transfers here and there, but you can’t clean up the mess in one year. Despite this, Ten Hag managed to win a small cup, is on the hunt for a bigger one and qualified for Champions League football. All within one year! The belief is back at Man Utd and Slot can create a new belief at Spurs.
It does seem it can’t get worse for Spurs, so it would make sense to step in right now. Expectations aren’t sky high, Slot will be given some time to build a new team, even if Kane leaves. And what did Spurs achieve with Kane? Kane scored a lot of goals, Spurs disappointed year after year.
It would have been more difficult for Slot to step in as Mauricio Pochettino’s successor after reaching the Champions League final. And there’s also a risk in staying on at Feyenoord. Slot is a big hero right now, he brought Feyenoord back to the top, but will it last? That’s very difficult to say.
It is doubtful Feyenoord will be able to do much in the Champions League, like Ajax could under Ten Hag. Even after strong good runs in the Conference League and Europa League. The elite level just seems a bit too much for Feyenoord. Back in 2017/2018, when they last featured in the Champions League, Feyenoord only claimed three points.
And will they win the league again next year? Last time Feyenoord was able to double up was… 1961-1962. Things look bright for Feyenoord at the moment, but the tide can turn quickly.
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