Xabi Alonso vs Ruben Amorim: Who is the better fit to replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool?

Yash Shah
2 months ago

Jurgen Klopp's unexpected decision to depart Liverpool Football Club at the end of the season left the club, the city, and its global fan base in disbelief.

After too many years on the periphery, the Reds' fortunes were transformed by the German, turning them into one of the most successful and exciting teams in Europe.

Replacing him will be an almost impossible task. We have seen this in the past with Manchester United and Arsenal struggling to replace Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, which set both clubs back.

However, the 56-year-old will be leaving Liverpool in a much better shape than his counterparts after recently overseeing the painstaking rebuild of his successful squad. He now leaves behind an elite youth academy and a young, talented squad that looks ready to compete at the highest level.

Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) would want someone with a track record of delivering success and the personality to inspire players and fans to take up this challenge.

They would also be looking at someone who can stylistically align with the squad built by Klopp, and will use their current players and talented academy to get results.

Xabi Alonso and Rubin Amorim are the frontrunners to take over from Klopp.

Reports indicate that Alonso has already been approached, while Amorim appears to be the Reds' backup candidate.

Both managers are doing a spectacular job at their respective clubs, but how do they compare and how might they fare at Liverpool? Let's take a look.


Experience and achievements

Amorim and Alonso are possibly the best young managers in the market, and went into coaching shortly after the conclusion of their playing careers.

Amorim is the more experienced of the two, and is in his fifth season managing a top flight club. He took over a Sporting CP side in 2020, and in his first full season guided them to their first league title in 19 years.

Ruben Amorim, Sporting

Lisbon, 14/12/2023 - Sporting Clube de Portugal hosted Sportklub Puntigamer Sturm Graz this evening at the Alvalade XXI stadium in Lisbon in game 6 of the Group Stage, Group D, of the Europa League 2023/2024, Europa League 2023 /24. Ruben Amorim Gerardo Santos / Global Imagens CI_SPORT_20231214_48305354

 

The Liga Portugal is not amongst the traditional big five European Leagues, but is a competitive environment that sees Sporting regularly engage in a 3-horse race with rivals Benfica and Porto.

This season they once again find themselves as a title favourite, but there is an argument that a step up to a top club in the Premier League might be too soon for him.

Alonso is only in his first full season in management, but has taken Bayer Leverkusen on a record-breaking unbeaten run that sees them comfortably top of the league, and deep into two cup competitions.

Although Alonso is relatively inexperienced, he is out-performing Bayern Munich with a team that last won a trophy in 1993. Liverpool find themselves competing with the likes of Manchester City and their endless finances, and his ability to get success against the odds, with limited resources will be looked at favourably by FSG.

Style of play

Both managers set up in a 3-4-2-1 shape, and use coaching principles akin to those of elite coaches in the game.

Like Liverpool, their teams maintain an average possession close to 60%, indicating a preference for a possession-dominant style of football.

Klopp’s Liverpool currently top the Premier League in Expected Goals (xG), big chances, shots on target and goals scored on a 90 minute basis.

Both Amorim and Alonso also like to play a similarly expansive and attacking style of football, and their teams sit in the top three in their respective leagues in each of the above metrics.

Xabi Alonso Ruben Amorim Leverkusen Sporting CP Tactical Comparison Stats Next Liverpool FC Manager

How do Xabi Alonso and Ruben Amorim compare? We look at their teams, Leverkusen and Sporting CP, as they are linked to the job as next Liverpool FC manager.

Defensively too there is very little to separate them. While Leverkusen have conceded fewer goals and kept more clean sheets, Sporting have a lower xG against per 90 figure.

But a key difference is how they compare to Liverpool’s relentless pressing, which has been a trademark of theirs. Here, Amorim shows more similarities to Klopp.

This shows up when looking at the passes per defensive action (PPDA) metric, which is a proxy for pressing intensity. We see that Liverpool’s 8.21 PPDA is another league leading figure, and Amorim’s Sporting fares much better with 9.17 PPDA compared to Leverkusen’s 11.09.

There are some other subtle differences. Leverkusen don’t play too many long passes, instead playing 54% of their passes short - compared to around 43% each by both Liverpool and Sporting. This would affect the role of someone like Mohamed Salah who relies on such balls in behind.

So, while they deploy similar philosophies, Amorim may seem to be a better stylistic fit to Klopp's Liverpool than the Spaniard.

Youth and player development

Klopp’s record in developing academy talent might be his greatest legacy.

Against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final and Southampton in the FA Cup this past week, with many senior players missing, Klopp named several academy graduates in the matchday squad. They repaid that trust by playing a significant role in both wins.

Klopp also has an incredible record of talent development, and getting the absolute best out of the players at his disposal. The challenge for the new manager will be to ensure that this continues.

Alonso has not used many academy players at Leverkusen, but has not been at the club long enough to get to know and trust them. The former midfielder has however worked with the Real Sociedad B team in the past, where he guided Martín Zubimendi to the first team.

He has also overseen impressive development in young players such as Florian Wirtz and Jeremie Frimpong, and integrated new signings Victor Boniface, Alejandro Grimaldo and Granit Xhaka to great effect.

Xabi Alonso, Florian Wirtz

Cheftrainer Xabier Alonso Olano Bayer, Florian Wirtz Bayer, Leverkusen, Deutschland, 10.02.2024, 1. Bundesliga, 21. Spieltag, Bayer 04 Leverkusen - FC Bayern München. DFL REGULATIONS PROHIBIT ANY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AS IMAGE SEQUENCES AND/OR QUASI-VIDEO *** Head Coach Xabier Alonso Olano Bayer , Florian Wirtz Bayer , Leverkusen, Germany, 10 02 2024, 1 Bundesliga, 21 Matchday, Bayer 04 Leverkusen FC Bayern München DFL REGULATIONS PROHIBIT ANY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AS IMAGE SEQUENCES AND OR QUASI VIDEO

Amorim fares a bit better here, and promoted the likes of Gonçalo Inácio, Matheus Nunes, Nuno Mendes and Tiago Tomás to the first-team early in his tenure.

He also helped develop them and others such as Pedro Porro, Manuel Ugarte, Joao Palhinha, Viktor Gyokeres, Marcus Edwards and Ousmane Diomande in recent years.

Personality

Klopp’s massive personality cannot be understated. He has been the face of the club for almost a decade, and has shown an unparalleled ability to inspire players and fans across those years. Simply put he 'gets' Liverpool.

Any manager coming in should be an exciting long-term pick who can in some way match his presence both on and off the pitch.

Amorim has a strong personality, but might not have the aura to fill this vacuum.

Alonso’s highly decorated career means that he will be able to walk in and instantly have the respect and trust of the players. His history with the Reds will ensure the fans give him the time that is needed to take on this challenge.

If the 42-year-old manages to see out a successful title winning season in Germany, he will certainly become the prime contender for the job. However, with Bayern Munich and possibly even Real Madrid also keen, Liverpool's path to Alonso might be more complicated.

The next steps will be for FSG to appoint a new sporting director to oversee the hiring process.

Regardless of the eventual choice, the new manager will be inheriting an exciting setup left behind by Klopp, giving them every chance of replicating his success.

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