Below is a comparison of individual statistics from Henderson and Kuyt's last four league games when played on the right of a 4-2-2-2. Formation notation is subjective, especially with this season's group of players, but these are how I saw each formation at the start of matches. For Henderson, that's wins over Wolves and Bolton, the draw against Sunderland, and loss at Stoke. For Kuyt, it's last season's win over City, draw at Arsenal, and losses to Spurs and West Brom.
No opinion, no commentary, just numbers. As always, remember the oft-cited 'your lying eyes' argument. Stats without context is driving without directions – you might get there in the end, but it's more down to luck than knowledge. Regardless, there are some interesting, and surprising, things to see.
All statistics from Opta via the FourFourTwo Stats Zone app. Too many chalkboards to post, so you're just getting the numbers. Check the app, or the comparable Guardian chalkboards, for the "pretty" pictures. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, I highly recommend the FourFourTwo app.
The customary caveats/notes:
• Main caveat: this focuses solely on the statistics because I don't want it to turn into a critique – or endorsement for that matter – of either. Six games into the new season with a rebuilt squad seems too soon to start second-guessing a manager with Dalglish's CV. Hodgson was different because the regression was obvious and constant. I think Henderson's done decently in his matches aside from Saturday's, especially considering circumstances. The condemnation he's received from some quarters has been mean-spirited and inexcusable, and if anything similar appears in the comments, it'll be deleted. Everyone would do well to remember he's a 21-year-old in his first season at Liverpool, adapting to a new role. And I don't need a disclaimer about my never-ending, probably illegal love for Dirk Kuyt.
• Henderson was subbed off in all four of the above matches, playing a total of 274 out of 360 minutes. Kuyt was subbed off once, in the 87th against West Brom – giving him 83 more minutes of playing time in the four games considered. All of Liverpool goals scored and all but one of those conceded (Bolton's consolation) in Henderson's games came with him on the pitch, though.
• The right-backs Henderson played with were Kelly, Skrtel, Kelly/Skrtel, and Flanagan. The right-backs Kuyt played with were Flanagan, Flanagan, Flanagan, and Carragher.
• The teams considered for Kuyt's four games finished 5th, 4th, 3rd, and 11th in 2010-11. The teams considered for Henderson's four games finished 17th, 13th, 14th, and 10th in 2010-11 (no point in using this season's table yet).
• Liverpool kept clean sheets in none of Henderson's four games and just one of Kuyt's four. Liverpool conceded four in Henderson's set of matches, five in Kuyt's set. Liverpool scored six in Henderson's set of matches, five in Kuyt's set.
• Finally, I promised no commentary, but can't help mentioning the passing completion, take-ons, tackles, interceptions, and fouls committed stats stick out like beacon bright-red sore thumbs.
• Should have done this in the original post; seeing certain numbers misconstrued around the internet, so I feel the need to add. There is an egregious discrepancy in some of the stats no matter the number of minutes played: specifically take-ons and basically all the defensive statistics. But due to Henderson playing 83 fewer minutes, there is basically no difference in the number of passes (passes attempted, successful passes, attacking third passes, passes received) when controlling for minutes played.
Averaging the above four games, Henderson attempted 44 passes per 90 minutes, with 34 successful. Kuyt attempted 47 passes per 90 minutes, with 32 successful. Henderson received 44 passes per 90 minutes, Kuyt received 46 passes per 90 minutes. Henderson attempted 20 attacking third passes per 90 minutes, Kuyt attempted 24 attacking third passes per 90 minutes, and both completed 14 attacking third passes per 90 minutes. By the numbers, Henderson is not less involved in the passing game; the completion percentage is the only significant difference in each's passing statistics. Granted, that doesn't account for the usual 'chalkboards don't tell us what kind of passes they were' argument, but that argument's not going away. Don't throw the baby out with bath water, but you have to actually watch the games for that information. Sorry.
That is why I mentioned the number of minutes played above in the 'caveats' section, but by now, I should be well aware of the need to fully explicate. My apologies.