Words synonymous with Kuyt are committed, energetic, tireless, frustrating, inconsistent the list goes on.
Signed in 2006 from Feyenoord as a striker for £10 million he brought with him a promising reputation after an impressive record in the Dutch league. Kuyt has found himself splitting opinions between fans, being utilised out of position it’s not been plane sailing for the Dutchman.
I’m not going to pretend that Kuyt has never heard the wrath of my tongue, because simply sometimes he can be the most infuriating player on the planet. I have however always seen his value to the team and it is hard to see a starting 11 without him now.
So with Liverpool already strengthening midfield, and with more additions up front rumoured where does Kuyt’s future lie. For these reasons I thought this was a logical step on from my Gerrard article to discuss his role for the Reds in the coming season.
As I write this blog its only 18 days until Liverpool play their first friendly against Gaungdong. I would suspect the team that’s starts may not be the team that starts the first premiership game of the season, however will Kuyt feature. Friendlies are often handy occasions to try out some of the reserves or newer players. If they were to impress, were would that leave Kuyt.
A lot of what I am about to write is my opinion, but I think it is backed up by some descent stats. For me, it would be foolish to leave Kuyt out of the starting 11. He is a seasoned premiership player that knows what it takes to get results. This is shown by his overall contribution to the team, in both attack and defence.
As an overall player, his contribution is massive. Not to mention the fact that he is a striker. His successful pass rate is not far off some of the best in the league with 1061, and was superior to Gerrard, last season who managed 1051 (admittedly Gerrard played fewer games). Chances created averaged 60.75%, which is better than Gerrard, Lampard, Fabregas and Scholes combined who averaged 49.25%. I’ll admit, these figures surprised me, and I think they show that in an attacking situation, Kuyt effectiveness has been severely underrated.
An obvious trait of any striker or an attacker’s armoury has to be goals. Last season was Kuyt’s highest scoring season, helped by a hat-trick against you know who. He has not been prolific; hence I believe the opinions of many, particularly other fans that Kuyt is just a hard worker. Based on goals alone, that opinion is perhaps valid, but when you combine the goals with his other attacking stats then he becomes a much fiercer proposition.
Whilst we are on goals, Kuyt is not shy of scoring against the bitters or popping up with crucial goals. His record against Everton is 5 goals in 10, perhaps one of the highlights being a penalty brace including a 90th minute winner at Goodison clinching a dramatic win. In the 2009/10 season he notched two more goals against our bitter rivals.
Everton aren’t the only team that he reserves his important goals for. He also opened the goals scoring in a 2-0 win against Chelsea, which happened to be the first time Rafa defeated Jose. He scored a 90th minute winner against Man City in 2008, he was instrumental in getting us to the Champions League in 2008 scoring against Marseille, Inter and Arsenal. He also scored at Anfield in the semi’s which unfortunately ended in defeat. More recently he has helped or hindered depending on your opinion of the europa league with goals throughout the tournament, such as an 86th winner against Sparta Prague. For me, his highlights would be the penalty brace against Everton, his penalty against Chelsea in the champion’s league, and of course, last season’s Hat-trick at Anfield against Man Utd.
Rafa, managed to turn him into a right midfielder and below are the stats from last season comparing his performance playing as a forward and as a midfielder. There is great consistency and also an end product.
Position – Apps – Goals – Assists – Rating
MR – 13 – 6 – 2 – 7.21
FW – 10 – 5 – 4 – 7.38
AMR – 5 – 1 – 1 – 6.6
FWR – 2 – 1 – 0 – 6.92
AMC – 1 – 0 – 0 – 6.7
As a modern footballer however, huge demands and expectations are thrust upon players, in particular the Premier League. It seems to be an increasing expectation of fans that scoring goals is not enough for strikers. Moreover, it seems to me that English fans especially expect a forward to defend as well as they can attack. And this is where I believe the Dutchman comes in to his own. His work ethic was designed for the modern game, and furthermore the EPL. With an average of 61.5 tackles and 49 interceptions, stats that are up there with some of the league’s best midfielders, his defensive attributes are just as important as his attacking performance.
What I think is forgotten when it comes to Kuyt is his overall consistency. He has adapted himself to become a hugely effective utility player. The example he gives to youngsters is exemplary. As far as next’s season’s role goes, I see him continuing to be a crucial member of the team, slotting in on the right and also up front. I could see him working well with Carroll feeding off the scraps that may inadvertently feed their way through opponents. He also rarely gets injured, which is commendable in itself in such a physical league that has very few breaks.
We all know that there will be times when he’ll skew a cross into row Z, or run in front of a Stevie G shot but when you break it down and consider his stats I don’t think that anyone could deny that he does have a crucial role within the team. For me, Kuyt is a king of the kop, and should be shown huge respect from the fans for what has put into the club over the years, but as I said earlier, these are just my opinions.