SAMI MOKBEL: Arne Slot will bring attacking, entertaining football back to Tottenham
Head coach, technical director, chairman and chief scout rolled into one: meet Arne Slot — Tottenham’s manager-in-waiting.
The Dutchman is a cutting-edge operator who understands the psychology of the modern-day footballer. He can be a shoulder to cry on, but is equally happy to dish out kicks up the backside if required. He will quickly create a siege mentality and place a huge emphasis on team bonding.
‘Players like him. He understands people, that’s his biggest strength,’ said a source.
Of course, it will take more than that to resuscitate a club who appeared in a Champions League final just four years ago but are now lurching towards mediocrity. It is a good start, though.
Slot’s attacking brand of football will excite supporters who long for a return to Spurs’ stylistic traditions. The pragmatic, and often drab, performances under Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo and Antonio Conte have created memories fans are desperately trying to forget.
Arne Slot (pictured) is expected to be appointed as Tottenham manager for next season
The 44-year-old Dutchman recently led Feyenoord to the Eredivisie title in Holland
If Slot, 44, delivers the type of effervescent football his title-winning Feyenoord team have conjured then it will not be long before those fans are on side.
His approach is defined by energy: high-octane pressing Jurgen Klopp would marvel at, a relentless devotion to attacking football Pep Guardiola would admire, and a diligent approach to defending Mourinho would applaud.
Slot will implement a fluid 4-3-3 system that relies on possession, or more importantly, regaining it as quickly as possible. He will likely play with two holding midfielders, while the attacking impetus will be placed on wide players to deliver chances for the central striker. Tactically, he can build a team from scratch but is not too proud to change when things are not working.
Slot empowers his staff to make in-game decisions — and he will applaud coaches in public if they have successfully contributed. All this will be music to Spurs supporters’ ears. So too, Daniel Levy.
The Tottenham chairman vowed for so long to return to the club’s attacking roots; only then to employ Mourinho and Conte. But if Feyenoord’s seamless combination of eye-catching flair and defensive resoluteness is anything to go by then Levy may well be ready to finally deliver on his promise.
Slot has a charismatic charm that makes him endearing. His English is excellent, too. One of his strengths is being able to control external narratives through the media. ‘He is a very friendly and likeable guy, he uses that,’ said another source. Yet there remains reason for caution. ‘Arne’s a top coach, but he isn’t necessarily easy,’ said a source. ‘He runs the whole club at Feyenoord, he has all the power.’
If, as expected, Slot is appointed Spurs boss he will have been assured of a significant degree of control over the club’s footballing operation. He would otherwise not agree to replace interim boss Ryan Mason.
So, if control-freak Levy is prepared to relinquish the reins, even slightly, it is a measure of how highly Slot is rated.
He looks set to inherit a Tottenham squad devoid of confidence but not lacking talent
They have been without a permanent manager since Antonio Conte’s sacking in March
Cristian Stellini (left) and Ryan Mason (right) have both struggled as acting managers this term
However, those who have worked with him describe someone who can be overpowering.
Mail Sport has learned that a number of Feyenoord scouts and recruitment specialists recently left the club because of the way Slot insisted they operate.
Equally, tensions behind the scenes at Feyenoord have been exacerbated in recent weeks as it became clear Slot would use the success of this season as leverage to secure a more prestigious job in Europe.
Feyenoord have grown increasingly concerned that his agent, Rafaela Pimenta, has been hawking their head coach to rival clubs while the team were looking to win their first championship since 2017.
In addition, Feyenoord have already delivered two signings on Slot’s recommendation — Ramiz Zerrouki and Thomas van den Belt — for a combined total of £7million, a major outlay for a club their size.
Most of the unhappiness is directed at Pimenta. How can they be mad at a head coach who has transformed the club’s fortunes in just two seasons since he arrived from AZ Alkmaar?
Yet Feyenoord’s angst is understandable and Tottenham should be wary. Slot was abruptly sacked by AZ Alkmaar in December 2020 after owner Robert Eenhoorn was informed that Slot had attended a clandestine meeting with Feyenoord about replacing then manager, Dick Advocaat.
Slot also revels in being at the heart of transfer negotiations. ‘He can be frustrating for a lot of people — but he wins,’ said a source. Slot is hungry. He has a desire to test himself in one of Europe’s top leagues. Leeds tried to lure Slot to Elland Road after Jesse Marsch was sacked in February. He was open to joining despite the fact his team were gunning for the Eredivisie title.
For Slot to succeed, Daniel Levy will have to relinquish some control of the club
It is no surprise, then, that he wants the Tottenham position. If all goes according to plan, Slot will have the opportunity to test himself in what he has already described as the ‘biggest and best’ league in the world.
But with just four years of managerial experience, is he ready for the biggest step of his career?
When he took over at Feyenoord, they were at rock bottom. Slot has exceeding expectations, but it must be said that the expectations were virtually non-existent.
Is he ready for a club such as Tottenham where pressure and expectation comes with the territory?
Levy will hope he slots in perfectly.