09 February 2009

As goes Kuyt goes Liverpool?

Disclaimer: Frequent readers know that I stick up for Kuyt to the point of annoyance. It's turned into something of a crusade: I think he's made into a scapegoat when it's not deserved far too often (as is happening to Lucas lately). I don't say this to look smarter after Saturday's match; reminding readers of my pre-existing biases is usually the best course of action. So, long story short, I may be reading too much into this because I've got a lot of time for the player, but I think it's worth noting anyway.


Inter and Arsenal in the CL last year. Chelsea too if not for a last-minute freak own goal. City, Wigan, and Pompey in the league this season, as well as the CL qualifier against Liege. In tight, big games, and in league comebacks, it's Kuyt with a starring role.

At the same time, Liverpool's spell of draws over the last few months began when Kuyt stopped scoring, with his last league goal before Saturday coming against Bolton on 11/15. He's scored eight goals in six games this season: the only one that didn't end in a win was the collapse against Spurs after Kuyt scored in the 3rd minute. The nearly three month dry spell Kuyt suffered through coincided almost exactly with the drop in Liverpool's form, leading to a league record of four wins and seven draws during that period.

Obviously, the Dutchman's not without his faults, which have been well documented, and aren't cancelled out by playing a key part in a comeback against a relegation candidate. But, in keeping with my paeans to Benitez, there has to be a reason why the manager keeps picking him, and it's not solely because he's willing to run himself into the ground.

I reckon the Portsmouth match might show the way forward, as well as hopefully marking a turning points. Against teams content to shut up shop, Kuyt's best role is probably as a sub. With Benayoun playing so well of late, maybe the preferred right flank against teams with 10 men behind the ball should be Yossi as the starter and Kuyt off the bench. If Benayoun's guile doesn't break them down, maybe Kuyt's energy and industry will when legs are starting to tire. And in games against the likes of United and Chelsea, where Kuyt's been a nailed-on starter, the opposite will be the preferred pairing.

10 comments:

john said...

Why is it he seems to play better when Gerrard is injured?

nate said...

Outstanding question and underlying point. In a few hours when I have a spare moment, I'll go back and see the team sheets in those games, the goal return, and what I wrote about Kuyt in those matches, and hopefully I'll have a better answer for you.

Although I imagine it has something to do with playing more centrally as well as additional instructions from Benitez on being a focal point in attack.

Marlon said...

A friend and I are Lucas apologists/sympathizers/supporters too Nate. It's a lonely place.

Bilal said...

Lucas is very talented, but I've seen it pointed out by those who followed him in Brazil that he was better suited to a lower-tempo league. I can see signs of that in his play but its something that can be worked on, he's a young player and I still hope that he'll iron out the issues in his play soon. Both him and Babel surely must know that they need to show more signs of the players that they could be after a 18 odd months at Liverpool.

nate said...

Ok, so there's no correlation between Gerrard out and Kuyt playing well. I'm blaming my shaky memory (and I'm guessing yours as well) on putting too much emphasis on beating United, which Gerrard came off the bench for anyway.

Kuyt started four games this season that Gerrard's missed: Draw with Fulham, win versus United, draw with Villa, draw with Liege. 4-4-2 was the formation most often used. Gulp.

Mike Georger said...

A few weeks back I drunkenly ebay'ed a Kuyt Netherlands jersey from the 06 World Cup.
At the time I didn't realize that the nike sizes run about three inches shorter than adidas does, and tonight it arrived and is quite the orange belly shirt.

/my little story

john said...

So, maybe my memory did play tricks on me re: Kuyt and Gerrard. This season he consistently pops up with goals in those some-from-behind games (Man City, Wigan, Portsmouth).

Abhiram said...

Awesome read:
http://www.liverpoolfc.tv/news/drilldown/NG163223090210-1353.htm

So true! So true!

nate said...

Tomkins is perpetually a good read. I've been meaning to look into his books, but it's such an annoyance ordering them in the usa.

scottw said...

I don't think that I agree that Kuyt is a substitute, even granting the premise that he's not a 90 minute man. I think that his harrying and hustling would be better tailored to wearing people out, then yielding to a tricky Benayoun or a pacey Babel.

That said, I do agree with the larger point that Kuyt plays particularly well when he's in a big match. European nights stand out especially--Chelsea PKs, Standard, Arsenal, the would-have-been Chelsea winner...

On another note, I can't understand how he's not better liked. He is a worker and a gracious man-- he runs himself into the ground for his side; he is eager to defer credit, see post-Pomp interview, et aliae. I like to think that those are real Red characteristics. Brilliant man. I'm a huge fan.