The Athletic FC – Slot to fill: Liverpool’s €9m coach bid; Ranking MLS Primary Transfer Window

EditorLast Update :
The Athletic FC – Slot to fill: Liverpool’s €9m coach bid; Ranking MLS Primary Transfer Window

The Athletic FC ⚽ This is The Athletic’s daily football/soccer newsletter. Sign up here to receive it directly in your inbox.

Welcome to the job club, as Liverpool hone in on Arne Slot. We’ve reached make-your-mind-up time. Who stays and who goes?

Plus: We look at the winners and losers from MLS’ primary transfer window.

Have Liverpool found Klopp heir?

Yesterday, I wrote about the coaching market getting hot. Twenty-four hours later, the starting gun is all but going off.

In managerial terms, you have three types of clubs out there: clubs who definitely need a new coach (Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Barcelona), clubs who want to ring-fence their existing coach (more to come on Aston Villa), and clubs who could soon ditch the coach they already employ (looking at you, Chelsea, after last night’s debacle against Arsenal).

There’s a debate about whether Jurgen Klopp giving warning of his intention to resign as Liverpool boss has been good or bad for their season — personally, I think recency bias is making it look like more of an issue than it is — but he has at least afforded the club ample time to consider their next move.

The latest name in the frame for Anfield? Arne Slot, the Dutchman who took Feyenoord to the Eredivisie title last season. Slot is emerging as Liverpool’s preferred choice and the developing news this morning is that they’ve had a €9m ($9.6m; £7.7m) offer rejected by Feyenoord. Talks continue. If they do get their man, I can see why he would fit (see below for an illustration of their playstyle).

You’ll dislike the word ‘synergy’ as much as me but it’s what elite clubs want: operations connected from top to bottom, joined-up thinking across the board and departments on the same page.

Our writer Adam Crafton got right inside Feyenoord last year. Reading his piece, being on the same page is the thread of their success under Slot. It’s also precisely what Michael Edwards, the man leading Liverpool’s planning for life after Klopp, will strive for at Anfield.

Emery rebuilding Villa

Unai Emery had the unenviable job of replacing Arsene Wenger at Arsenal in 2018. It didn’t work out and part of you wonders if, in the case of Liverpool, Xabi Alonso heeded a warning about the reality of replacing a legend.

Emery has found his groove at Villa, who are performing better pound-for-pound than any squad in the Premier League this season. We broke the news of his contract extension, now running to 2027, yesterday and again, it’s easy to see why Villa are doubling down on him.

Sensible clubs like managers to be projects. Sensible coaches like a project too. It’s exactly what Villa and Emery have got. Their recruitment is good and in Monchi, their ‘president of football operations’, they’ve put a heavyweight figure behind Emery.

It’s not easy to crack the Premier League’s top four — but this Villa-Emery axis has real legs.

Clearlake, muddy waters for Pochettino?

And so to Chelsea, who are very much the opposite of Villa. All the gear and no idea.

Watching them lose 5-0 to Arsenal last night, the thought occurred that in the days when Roman Abramovich ran the show at Stamford Bridge, Mauricio Pochettino’s coat would be on a shaky peg.

Sacking Pochettino would hardly be a silver bullet for Chelsea’s total lack of coherence, or the issues for owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, but their soft, disorganised football cannot continue indefinitely either.

The depression is getting to everyone. Nicolas Jackson looks like he couldn’t score from an inch out. Chelsea’s Twitter account couldn’t bring itself to name Kai Havertz. Pochettino says Chelsea are more than Cole Palmer, but Palmer is the only particularly good thing about them.

Some appointments are destined for happy endings. You’d be amazed if this is one of them.

Arsenal’s high five

A happy ending for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta is nothing less than a major trophy — specifically, the Premier League title.

Beating Chelsea was like punching through soggy cardboard but Arsenal were merciless. Some of their passing, Martin Odegaard’s especially, was brilliant.

Art de Roche has written about the midfield presence of Thomas Partey and how his muscle allowed Arsenal to run riot. More broadly, the piece made me consider the levels of high performance in Arteta’s squad.

(Readers outside of the UK, can see White’s goal here)

How would you pick a standout player of the year? The candidates are endless. Even Ben White has a shout. As Chelsea melted like human ice cream, White banked two goals from right-back, the second of which (above) was a corking volley/shanked cross.

If Manchester City win their remaining six games — they are four points behind Arsenal with two games in hand — the title stays at the Etihad Stadium. All Arsenal can do, and Liverpool too (three points off top spot having played a match less), is give City no margin for error.

The bonus for Arsenal of routing Chelsea last night? If top spot comes down to goal difference (they are 12 ahead of City), it’s going their way.

MLS Moves Marked ✅

MLS’ primary transfer window closed last night. Its secondary window opens on July 18 but for now, doors and wallets are shut.

Tom Bogert and Jeff Rueter dug so deep into this that they hit the mantle layer. My main takeaways from their excellent analysis:

💪 LA Galaxy flexed their biceps — Joseph Paintsil is a quality capture

👀 Federico Redondo choosing Inter Miami over Europe is no small deal

🔥 He’s 37, but Luis Suarez hasn’t lost it

🤓 Minnesota United did their homework on head coach Eric Ramsay

This season’s primary challenge still stands, though. Stop Lionel Messi.

Decline or evolution for Salah?

Mo Salah has been the ace up Jurgen Klopp’s sleeve for longer than Liverpool can remember. He’s got that super-human streak — like, positive inevitability.

Or he had until this season. In defence of what some see as Salah’s diminishing impact, it should be remembered that Klopp has reinvented Liverpool slightly, prompting a change to Salah’s role. We’re still talking about a 17-goal, nine-assist Premier League campaign from him, in spite of time off with a hamstring injury.

But it did not go unnoticed that Klopp went without Salah in his line-up for last Sunday’s trip to Fulham, a game Liverpool had to win. Historically, Salah’s place would not have been remotely up for debate when the chips were down.

So, Mark Carey asks, is he declining? Or is he just changing? He no longer beats a man so reliably but his creativity has risen markedly. It’s a nuanced discussion.

There’s another angle to consider too. Liverpool resisted big money from Saudi Arabia for Salah last summer. On the basis of his season and with Klopp about to depart, would they be more tempted this time?

  • Klopp could recall Salah for tonight’s mega Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. Everton v Liverpool (3pm ET/8pm UK). Premier League. Peacock Premium, Sky Sports Main Event.

Around The Athletic FC