Jürgen Klopp and Arne Slot tactics comparison – Coaches' Voice

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With a deal agreed between Liverpool and Feyenoord, it very much looks like Arne Slot will succeed Jürgen Klopp as the Reds’ manager. The Premier League club had already rehired Michael Edwards, as chief executive of football, who in turn recruited Richard Hughes to start as sporting director from June. With those appointments in place, Liverpool stepped up the search for Klopp’s replacement. Given the German’s success in the role, it would make sense to hire someone who shares at least some tactical similarities with their predecessor.
Slot has only managed Dutch clubs prior to Liverpool’s approach, but clearly with enough success to attract some of the Premier League’s leading lights. In his first head-coach role, with second-tier Cambuur, he helped them rise from 14th to third in less than a season in charge. At AZ Alkmaar, he had the club on course for a surprising Eredivisie title, before the 2019/20 season was cancelled amid the Covid pandemic. Subsequently, he led Feyenoord to the title – only their second in nearly a quarter of a century – plus a Europa Conference League final and a first Dutch Cup in six years.
It is clear that Slot has helped Dutch clubs punch above their weight for honours. In tandem with the results, though, Liverpool will also have looked at the processes Slot has implemented to achieve success. Included here, of course, will have been his tactical approach.
Below, our UEFA-licensed coaches have analysed both Slot and Klopp’s tactics, with Feyenoord and Liverpool respectively, identifying similarities as well as points of difference…
The most obvious connection between Slot and Klopp is their application of an aggressive high press. For the most part, Slot has utilised a 4-2-3-1 structure with Feyenoord. This has converted into a 4-4-2 press, with the number 10 jumping to support the centre-forward (below).
Klopp employed a 4-2-3-1 at the beginning of his Liverpool tenure, but often pressed with a front three instead of the first-line pairing used by Slot. The Dutchman’s commitment to pressing has still been notable, though. In his three seasons at Feyenoord, the team recorded either the second or third-lowest PPDA.
As Klopp progressed Liverpool to a 4-3-3, they continued to press with a front three that went very aggressive on the opposition back line. Slot’s Feyenoord, by contrast, have had the extra player in midfield, giving better cover across the pitch. Because Klopp had three in midfield, he relied on explosive midfielders who could duel in central spaces but also knew when to jump out and press. The likes of Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Naby Keïta and more recently Dominik Szoboszlai, Harvey Elliott and Alexis Mac Allister, have all been excellent at this. 
Whenever Klopp’s midfield trio pressed aggressively through the middle and the front line narrowed, his full-backs jumped forward. This accounts for the initial lack of defensive support behind the wingers (below).
Because Slot has operated with two in the first line, central access has been covered fairly well by his Feyenoord side. This has allowed his wingers to press into wide areas, and the full-backs to stay back.
Klopp’s commitment to final-third numbers when pressing gives a better goal threat when regaining the ball. Slot’s approach gives more structure, support and cover, should the opposition break the first line.
Slot has opted for a double pivot to build from the back. Sometimes this has been with a back four and the pivots in close connection – not dissimilar to Roberto De Zerbi with Brighton. But he has evolved to invert a full-back, usually right-back Lutsharel Geertruida. From here, the back line has converted into a three, with a double pivot just ahead (below).
The midfield unit then readjusts, with the number 10 and one of the initial double pivots moving forward, into the inside channels. There, they almost operate as two numbers 10s inside the wingers, who held the width.
Klopp used a double pivot and a back four himself in his early days at Liverpool. This was partly due to the squad he inherited, but also to provide a base for his trademark aggressive, central counter-pressing and high pressing.
As Klopp evolved his Liverpool squad, there were many moments where a double pivot appeared in the 4-3-3 shape. This came when one of the number eights dropped in defensive and transitional cover, as opposed to dropping in to help the build-up. This was because full-backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold were so influential in the attacking phase, flying forward from full-back. That was a staple for much of Klopp’s Liverpool reign, not least the two-year period in which they won the Champions League and Premier League.
Later, he adapted further to build with a back three, as Alexander-Arnold inverted from right-back to become a second pivot (below). This was almost identical to the tactic employed by Slot at Feyenoord in the 2023/24 season.
Klopp’s number eights moved higher to make inside-channel runs, working off wide attackers – often Mo Salah and Luis Díaz, but also on occasion Cody Gakpo, Diogo Jota, Harvey Elliott or Darwin Núñez. Klopp has also utilised a dropping central midfield for this converted 3-4-2-1, with Wataru Endo and Mac Allister forming the double pivot, allowing right-back Conor Bradley to advance.
Once Feyenoord’s adapted midfield shape has been formed in possession, Slot’s 2023/24 side have attacked the box with purpose and numbers. It has not been uncommon to see four or five players working the opposing penalty area. Their adapted back three and converted double pivot, meanwhile, provide cover and support underneath.
The players in the inside channels have made runs in behind, exploiting space created by the wingers drawing out their opposing full-backs (below). The widest of the back three would also move forward in support, should they need to work the ball back and then switch play to the opposite winger.
Slot has also encouraged Feyenood’s wingers to attack aggressively on both sides of the pitch. They have frequently dribbled and attacked 1v1, in a manner not dissimilar to the likes of Salah, Díaz or Sadio Mané.  When aimed inside the pitch from wide starting positions, these runs also work to threaten the goal more directly.
Klopp’s earlier-stage Liverpool displayed movement and attacking patterns in which the full-backs overlapped, the wingers rolled inside and the eights often acted as cover. These wide triangles complimented dropping movements from the centre-forward, who was usually Roberto Firmino.
As Klopp evolved the 4-3-3, Alexander-Arnold began to move inside more, and the likes of Henderson (below) and Wijnaldum made penetrative inside-channel runs, similar to Slot’s converted 10s at Feyenoord. On the left, Robertson continued to overlap the inverting left winger (below, with Thiago dropping from his number-eight position to cover).
In his ‘Liverpool 2.0’, Klopp encouraged attacking movements in a similar shape, with Alexander-Arnold inverted to form the double pivot. In Alexander-Arnold’s absence, his replacement Bradley was more inclined to advance wide, allowing Liverpool’s right winger to move inside (below).
Although the type of player available to Klopp has differed to Slot’s Feyenoord personnel, the 3-4-2-1 attacking structure was the same. Therefore, were Slot to implement these attacking movements and rotations at Liverpool, he would find a squad not wholly unfamiliar to its demands. It will certainly be fascinating to see how Liverpool’s style transitions from one head coach to the next.
To learn more about football tactics and gain insights from coaches at the top of the game, visit CV Academy
Author: The Coaches’ Voice
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