Q&AIn full: Read Arne Slot's first interview as Liverpool head coach

By Glenn Price, Chris Shaw and Sam Williams


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Arne Slot has conducted his first interview as Liverpool head coach and detailed his excitement at leading the team into a new era.

The Dutchman sat down with Liverpoolfc.com at the AXA Training Centre on Wednesday for a wide-ranging chat about the role he officially took up on June 1, having arrived after three successful seasons at Feyenoord.

Slot talked about his work since taking charge, succeeding Jürgen Klopp, and what he and his coaching staff bring to the club.

He also expressed a determination to establish a special connection with Liverpool supporters as he looks to reward them with success and a side to be proud of.

Watch or read the interview in full below…

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Congratulations and welcome to Liverpool. Can you tell us how you feel at this moment?

I would say energised because of the holiday I had. Excited, really looking forward to the new challenge which is ahead of me. We are, of course, looking at the training ground, which is fantastic, so there are a lot of things to look forward to. The team is coming back in a few weeks and yeah, [I am] looking forward to a new start after a nice period I had at Feyenoord.

There has been a bit of time between you being announced as Liverpool's head coach and now – was that deliberate from your point of view?

I think it is, because of a few reasons. First and foremost, maybe the farewell of Jürgen, which was really special from what I saw. It was on the same day I left Feyenoord as well but I did see a few things and afterwards there was even a few more farewells from what I saw, so I think it was fair to him and to the club and to the supporters to wait a bit and then to come in.

Apart from that, I went on holiday as you probably can see! And yeah, I think now is a good moment to arrive here and talk to you, but let's be clear: I don't start today, I've been in a lot of contact with staff members already – from people who are working here to the new staff members that are coming in – and, of course, almost every day Richard [Hughes] and me are calling each other because we have to talk. This is also a very important phase for the new season, to make sure the team is ready, and we have to play in the pre-season. So, a lot of things have been done but more in the background and now I am sitting here in front of you, I think it's a good moment to do it now for the few reasons I just gave you.

Do you find it easy to switch off during your holidays?

No! I don't think a manager, if it is me or anyone else, switches off, but it's been a good few weeks because I could look back at a very nice time at my former club Feyenoord and really look forward to going to a club like Liverpool. So, there have been summers where it hasn't been this good because that is also the life of a former football player and a manager, but this summer was really nice because of the fact that I left Feyenoord in a good place and I am coming to a club that Jürgen left in a good place. So, yeah, it has already been a good summer.

In Jürgen you are replacing an iconic figure and he is somebody who you clearly have a great deal of admiration for…

Yeah. I am 45 now and [have been] watching football for a long time and watching football a lot, and I think this has been an era where everybody looked at the Barcelona side of Xavi [Hernandez], [Andres] Iniesta and [Lionel] Messi and the rivalry there was between Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo being there.

And I think when that came to an end, the new rivalry in European football came because of Jürgen – he managed Liverpool and Pep Guardiola, of course, managed Manchester City and I think for everyone who loves football it was a fantastic era to watch the both of them getting the best out of each other. Yeah, I have seen a lot of games of Liverpool, a lot of games of City as well, and when you live in Europe the Premier League is probably the nicest league to follow. So, yeah, he has done a tremendous job over here and I am really happy with that as a fan, but now as his successor he left Liverpool in the best possible way, I think. So, a very good team, the fans are very good as well, so [I am] looking forward to it.

Was it important that you spoke to Jürgen?

Yeah. I did the same in my former clubs when I started over there but I think if someone worked at a club for nine years [and had] been so successful, you want to know all about it from him and you also want to know things of the players – although I think it is also important to get my own opinion about that. So, you can only use all this information he has because he did so well, not only in terms of results but I think also everybody saw in his farewell but also in the years before that how popular he was.

He gave me more than a few good tips but I think what stood out for me was that he was so happy for me and that – and I think he said this in the media as well – he would be my biggest fan from now on because he supports Liverpool in the best possible way, and you don't see this very often. So, it says a lot about his character, the way he handled this situation as well.

It's important that you are your own man, of course, but from what we know there are a few similarities between your style and his, perhaps?

I think there are and I think that is also one of the reasons why I came in, because I think the way Liverpool 'scouted' me – I'm not sure if that is the right word to use – they were looking for, not the exact same type, but I think when something has been successful [with] a certain way of playing you would like to extend this or to go on with this. This is probably one of the reasons they came to me as well.

Yeah, it is my style but I think it is the style of many modern coaches at the moment: we were all a bit inspired because of the rivalry between City and Liverpool. We were all inspired by Guardiola and Klopp and I think at a big club, which I worked in in Feyenoord as well, it is probably the only style you can play – to have the ball a lot, to have a lot of energy, and I think also now there are comparisons between the club I left behind and the club I am going to work for now. Both [sets of] fans love to see a team that wants to do everything to win a game and if things are tough they try to do everything to turn the game around and I think that has been done by Liverpool many times and I think that has been done by my former side Feyenoord many times as well.

It is a big change but change is exciting too, isn't it?

It is, it is. I am wearing the new jersey and, of course, there is change but a lot of things are still the same as well. I think the players are still the same, which is probably the most important thing because, of course, we as managers sometimes tend to think that we have a lot of influence, which we can have, but in the end it comes down to the players. And I think the fans are still the same so many things are still the same and yeah, we are going to try to work on what Jürgen left behind and we will see a lot of similar things. But, of course, I bring my own things to the table as well and I think that's also what is expected of me.

Your official title is 'head coach'. What does that mean for you?

For me, it is normal because this is the way it is in Europe and in Holland. I don't think there is much of a change between a head coach and a manager, it's just that by being a head coach I can go in fully to the things I would like to do. So, work with the team, prepare the team in the best possible way, and me and Richard are going to work together when it comes to transfers but not only the two of us – there is a big backroom staff included in this as well. I think for me it is the way I have worked always and it for me is the ideal way of working because I can use the most of my time by working with the team and the time that is left will probably be a bit for the family and a bit to talk with Richard about how we can strengthen the team. But we already have a really strong team.

Can you tell us a little bit about when Liverpool's interest became real for you and there was a possibility of you taking the job, and that moment where you decide that this was the right move for you?

I think those moments are always very private because nobody needs to know about it. So the first time you hear that Liverpool is interested in you, you have to keep it between me and my wife. I always knew that it had to be a fantastic club where I would leave Feyenoord for, and this was Liverpool and the league as well. I think it was a year ago that I was in the interest of a few Premier League clubs as well but I decided to extend at Feyenoord with the idea of staying there two more seasons.

But after a year, Liverpool came along and – like I just told you about the rivalry between City and Liverpool and the many games we as football fans saw – it wasn't a difficult choice to make. Although, like I said, I was really happy at Feyenoord, the way I work there with the fans, with the staff, with the players. But this was the possibility I had to take.

Can you tell us about you? How would you describe yourself as a head coach?

When I come in in the first days, in the first week I'm here, I will be really focused on the training ground. I think there is the place where you can influence the most and you have to influence the most, because you have to influence your players, common to [the] game model and your game plan. And I think that's where it's all about – to find a way of playing which suits the players the best and then adjust maybe with the game plan a bit where we can win a few things. But that's all tactical and I think there's something else towards being a head coach or a manager or the way you want to call it and that is the relations you have with people.

The relationships I have with my staff but also the players, how they get along with each other and the relationships between staff and players – and I think this was one of the things, looking at it from the outside, where Jürgen was great at as well apart from playing style. That is a challenge because I'm 100 per cent sure that many people who are still at this club still love him. We have to find a way that people get used to me and used to the new staff that's coming in, and get the same energy in this building and eventually into the stadium as well because that's where it's all about – we have to perform during the games. But to perform there, I think it's important to have a good idea of how we want to play and a good energy within the team and within the people who are working at Liverpool.

It seems from what I've read that you take a lot of learning experiences from other sports. It's not just football you take an interest in and what you can learn as a coach...

Not tactically, of course, because those are different sports, but the way some sports handle the mental side of the game can help you. And I sometimes used it in team meetings before a game, so I tried to use examples of cycling or at the moment we've seen Roland-Garros and we've seen [Novak] Djokovic winning in a really tough game, and I think that's one of his qualities, that he can also win the game when it's not going his way, he can still find a way to win it. I think those are examples you can use towards players as well. But let's be clear: we are mostly talking about football and it's not going to be the situation that players are going to listen to all kinds of other sports. Sometimes I use it but only if I think it's necessary.

It's a big change behind the scenes and you will bring with you your support staff, your coaches. Can you tell us a little bit about them, their personalities and what they will offer this playing squad and this fanbase at Liverpool?

Like I just said already, Jürgen left the club in a really good place, left the team in a really good place. I think we have a lot of quality and the way they played last season was already impressive, so we are going to build from there. Of course, you want to take some people with you as well because they know who you are, they know your playing style and they can translate this to the other people in the staff as well. But if you go to a club like Liverpool, you can assume – and I already noticed that – that there are a lot of good people working here as well. So, we are going to use hopefully the best of both worlds to implement a few things from us and to use the knowledge that is inside this club already because of the nine years Jürgen and his staff worked here.

I bring in Sipke Hulshoff, who's been my assistant for a few years now at Feyenoord. I worked with him long ago, I worked with him at Cambuur Leeuwarden as well. He was the assistant of Ronald Koeman of the Dutch national team as well, but he is going to join me now from the start. A bit older than me, I think, not so much but a bit older than me. Because we work together for such a long time, I think the both of us know exactly what we want when it comes to game model, playing style – and I think that helps.

Then we will bring in a performance coach, Ruben Peeters, who is going to help me and the club with – how would I put this in English words? – the way we are working on the physical side. Us three have worked together at Feyenoord for three years now and we know how we want to work, which is normal. And then there's a replacement in the goalkeeping staff as well – we've brought in Fabian Otte, who was working at Borussia Monchengladbach and is still now with the USA team at the Copa America.

So those are the first positions we filled in and I think we are still looking for one or two other positions. I just said in the beginning of the interview that Richard and me are calling each other a lot, not only about this but also about the positions we still have to fill in.

Recruitment will be a big part of that as well – has that been part of those conversations with Richard?

Yeah, and it's also been part of spending my time in the last few weeks. If you bring in Fabian, who I didn't know before, you have conversations, meetings with him – together with Richard – to bring the best possible person in we could find, and I think in the situation of Fabian we managed to do that. He's regarded as one of the most interesting goalkeeper coaches there is at the moment and in the meetings we had I felt this as well. [There are] still one or two positions to fill in and we are talking about this and having meetings about this as well.

It's a squad that finished on 82 points. You mentioned before that it's been left in a good place, so you must feel that it's in a good place to go again and go again strong...

Yeah, definitely. I think 82 points is a result of [the] playing style. Always the points you get is always a result of the way you play. I've seen many games already, I've seen many training sessions as well. Of course the fans can see the games, so they know we have some very good players. But I've also seen a lot of training sessions already and I think this is where you bring the culture, and they are always working hard – like the fans see during the game.

[A] real good team, real good players, managed to be on top for a very long time, but I think in the end we would all love to see Liverpool a bit higher than third place and this is the challenge we are facing now – to build on from what we have. I have all the confidence in this because of the players, that we can add a few things where we hopefully can get a bit more points than 82, which is necessary with the likes of Arsenal and City, to end up hopefully a bit higher than we did this season.

It's fascinating to hear you talk not just about the fact that you watched so many of the games but you would even go back and watch training sessions. You dug quite deep into the history of what last season looked like behind the scenes as well...

There are two things [why] to do this. Of course to get to know more about the players because mostly you see them during the games. And you want to know also what the culture is, how they train and what they are used to. I think it's always interesting if you are the successor of Jürgen Klopp and also Pepijn Lijnders, who does quite a bit of work on the training pitch, to see what their ideas were on the training pitch. I said this, we all try to steal a bit from each other – mostly this is done by looking at the games but if you can see the way they train, that can only help you. Let one thing be clear: the players are not going to get all the same exercises again – we will implement our own things. But it's interesting to see what they did also during the week.

What has this period been like for you as the boss, in terms of how you speak to players? Do you leave them to their international duties at the moment or have you reached out to a few of them to find out how they are?

I've reached out to a few of them – all of them after Jürgen left, because I thought that was really important to be fair to Jürgen and be fair to the players. Because they had to end the season and I don't think I would be really happy if my successor would have called players before I left the club. Then I think it's normal to start with the captain, which is Virgil [van Dijk], which is an easy one for me because we could speak Dutch!

And from there on I called a few others, but not many of them because most of them are in preparation, or at this moment playing, at the Euros, and some others are in preparation at the Copa America. So I think the best way is to keep a certain distance but also be interested in them as well. And hoping that most of them – especially the Dutch! – will still be as long as possible away so they will reach the final. Then afterwards I will get to meet them and I think that's a better way of getting to know each other than by phone or Zoom meetings.

Fixtures for the new season are fresh from being released, it's eight weeks until it all gets under way. That will go very quickly, so what are your priorities in the next eight weeks?

In pre-season it's all about getting players fit and getting your game idea, your game model, into the players. We have quite a lot of training time with a few of them; and it depends how far players will go into the tournaments they are playing, how much time we have to work with these players. But like you already mentioned, the playing style will not be completely different. But it would be strange if we would do exactly similar things, because although I'm the replacement of Jürgen Klopp, I'm not exactly similar to him.

So we'll try with the players who come in at the beginning, which is quite a lot of them already, to implement our idea of football as soon as we can. And when the rest come in a bit later, hopefully the ones who are there already can help us as a coaching staff so that they know what is being expected. Probably it will go as fast as possible because we have to be ready for the first game with Ipswich away.

Before that comes the USA tour. You'll lead your team in the dugout for the first time in Pittsburgh in July. You must be excited for that?

Yeah, I think it's always special to have games in the United States. From what I've been told, the stadiums are quite full or completely full. That's a special way of starting your career at Liverpool. But especially if you go to a new club, the first time is always special. First time arriving here for the first training session, the first time leading a session, and the first time leading a game will be special. But most of course I'm looking forward to is leading a game at Anfield. But we have to wait a while before that happens.

We spoke a little bit about Feyenoord at the start. You must be in a wonderful place mentally now to have left them amongst Europe's elite again. It's always probably quite sad to leave a club that has such a big part in your life, though?

Yeah, I think it was during the interview I said that last season I had the chance to go to the Premier League as well; I decided to stay because I felt that things weren't done yet. When I started there, the club was in quite a difficult place, didn't have a lot of money, ended up fifth I think. And we could change that around. Now, with two successive seasons of Champions League, winning the title once, winning the cup once, and the value the squad has now is completely different to three years ago – I think it's fair to say I left Feyenoord in a good place. I have all the belief that the new head coach over there will do a great job there as well, because he's inheriting a good culture and a very good team as well.

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They sing You'll Never Walk Alone, like Liverpool do…

I've already said, there's a few similarities between Feyenoord and Liverpool. Both are cities alongside the river, people work on the docks, it's a hard working class, fans that appreciate seeing the team. I think these clubs like Feyenoord and Liverpool, from what I saw of it, it just means a bit more for the fans, it just means a bit more if the team does well than at some other places around the world. This is what I felt at Feyenoord and I'm expecting to feel the same here at Anfield as well.

We're looking forward to it, too. A good way to finish is a message from you to the fans…

You surprised me a bit on this one! There is a change but the change hopefully isn't that big, because we still have the same players, we still have the same fans – and if the both of them are going to do the same job, that will make my life a lot more easy! I'm expecting them to show up again in the upcoming season, and the same for the players. I will do everything within my interest and power to lead the team in the best possible way.



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This article has been automatically translated and, while all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, some errors in translation are possible. Please refer to the original English-language version of the article for the official version.