Arne Slot frank admission about Liverpool job shows problem he'll need to fix

Arne Slot is set to be appointed as Liverpool's next head coach
Arne Slot is set to be appointed as Liverpool's next head coach -Credit:NESimages/Geert van Erven/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Having promised to avoid the booking that would result in him missing the Anfield party in his honour on Sunday afternoon, Jurgen Klopp ultimately kept to his word.

But it might have taken all the Liverpool manager’s not-so-famous powers of restraint to keep his counsel as a wild game at Villa Park saw the spoils shared with a 3-3 draw.

“They gave me Simon Hooper (as referee) - that’s the biggest challenge they could find!" Klopp joked before the game, even if there was some truth said in jest. The restrained pull of the baseball cap over his face when John McGinn won a dubious foul near the halfway line in the first half suggested the Reds boss would indeed be sticking to his pre-match promise.

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Having prowled the technical area with menace for most of this season, Klopp stood around with all the intent of a man loitering in his front yard awaiting his Amazon parcel this time out and there would be no boiling of the blood that would risk a touchline ban. Instead, the outgoing Reds manager will now have the best seat in the house when the Kop salute him in style this weekend.

But if a Liverpool squad who were already secured of third place before kick-off feel they are now only playing to give their current manager a fitting send-off, the reality is ever so slightly different. Because having admitted that he caught as much as he could of last week's 4-2 win over Tottenham before duty called for Feyenoord, you can be certain Arne Slot will have also watched the full 90 minutes here as the wait for him to be officially named as Klopp's successor goes on.

The Dutch coach has been remarkably frank when asked about taking over at Anfield and he will have been paying particularly close attention to what he will have to work with when he eventually arrives at the AXA Training Centre. And what he will have seen was a quality squad but one with imperfections that can be ironed out this summer.

There was a lot to admire on the night itself from the visitors, particularly given it was the hosts who needed the points more in their Champions League quest but like Spurs last week, a failure to close out the game allowed the opposition back into it with two late goals and this time it cost them a couple of points.

Klopp might have to take some of the blame himself given the quartet of changes in Darwin Nunez, Dominik Szoboszlai, Curtis Jones and Ryan Gravenberch, who were introduced all at once in the second period, disrupted rhythm and momentum.

With the Reds unable to go higher or lower and Villa likely to finish an excellent campaign of their own with a top-four place, there was a carefree, end-of-season feel to this one as both teams looked dangerous every time they went forward.

And having been proudly proclaimed as "the world's No.1" by the Villa announcer just moments before the game began, it was a horror moment for Emi Martinez in goal almost immediately when Harvey Elliott's tame, second-minute cross took a minor deflection before the World Cup winner turned it into his own net.

Villa responded through Youri Tielemans who blasted home after great work from Olly Watkins who raced away from Jarell Quansah on the right side before cutting it back for the Belgium midfielder.

Liverpool had their second through Cody Gakpo when he tapped home Joe Gomez's cross from the left-hand side after 23 minutes. The first of three lengthy VAR checks on the night ruled Gomez not to be offside and Gakpo had his 16th of the season. The in-form Dutch international won’t want the season to end.

Quansah, whose superb header made it 3-1 in the second half, responded well to Villa's leveller and was imperious for the remainder of the game, making a handful of important blocks and crucial interceptions. He was blameless for either goal in the second period.

The Reds looked like they were easing to another three points before an exhausted Alexis Mac Allister, who should have been one of the four subbed, produced a loose touch that allowed Jhon Duran in. The Colombian still had plenty to do but he steered home superbly.

If Duran’s first was taken in style then the equaliser was blind luck as Moussa Diaby’s pass struck him on the thigh before beating a wrong-footed Alisson. It was rough luck in truth but the inability to close things out this time came back to haunt them.

It was cosmetic damage only but a more worrying issue for the Reds is their struggles with teams around them. From a possible 18 points against the other sides in the top four, Klopp’s men have collected just seven and only Villa, back in September, have been beaten.

If such trends are no longer Klopp’s problem to fix, you can be sure it will be something Slot will be trying to arrest next season. That needs to change.