After a 3-1 victory over Manchester United, Liverpool have reminded people that they are a top side. They have confirmed that they are still a force in the Premier League and while they might be resigned to finish 5th this season, they will surely be a threat for the top 4 next year. The game on Sunday was won by a Dirk Kuyt hat-trick and as I read the papers yesterday I was constantly reminded of the ‘un-sung hero’ of Anfield. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Dirk Kuyt, but I want to make it clear that he is not an ‘un-sung’ hero.
Kuyt did a great job on Sunday, and I don’t think he has suddenly become a better player; he was simply used in a system that better suited him. This does not make him an unsung hero; he has not been undervalued for the last 2 years, in fact I think his praises get sung quite often. People use this label unnecessarily.
You might not hear mention of his express pace, silky dribbling skills and Beckham-esque crosses, but that does not make him an ‘unsung hero’. An unsung hero is someone who puts in effort that is not recognised. I personally don’t think people have ignored Kuyt’s efforts and furthermore, I don’t think he has done enough to warrant praise that he has not received. This label makes him sound worse than he is.
On the other hand, the departure of the ‘sung’ hero, Fernando Torres, has allowed Dalglish to get more out of Dirk Kuyt. We have all seen how Meireles has benefitted from being given a more advanced role, now we are seeing how Dalglish has got the best out of Kuyt.
The reason he got moved out onto the right wing is because of the introduction of Torres. I would never argue that Kuyt is as good a player as Torres, but he did suffer from the way Torres played. Torres thrived from playing as a lone target man (this has been clarified since his move to Chelsea) and Benitez played in a way that suited Torres, with one man up top.
So Kuyt had to play on the right, where (I have often heard it mentioned), he is effective. He is useful due to his teamwork and can supply a fairly good ball, he also shows incredible determination and work rate. I would not say his crossing is as good as the likes of Giggs, or even David Bentley, but it is adequate, and he does get a lot of assists.
On the other hand, he lacks the individual spark to be a flamboyant winger. He hardly ever beats a man and will not create something out of nothing. So he might not set the world on fire but he does a good job. And don’t forget his work-rate. He does well considering he is a striker who is asked to play as a right winger, but this has been duly noted.
What his hat-trick showed however, is that to get the most out of a player like Kuyt, you need to play 4-4-2. His industrious style makes him an ideal poacher. He will never be the best at dribbling past a defender and will never be great at picking out a pin-point through ball, but he will work as hard as anyone to find space and get on the end of passes. This is exactly what he did on Sunday. He did not change the way he played, he just did it further up the pitch and nearer the goal.
Playing alongside the new Uruguayan signing, who has the flair and skill to create chances in the box, Kuyt managed to pick up the scraps. He bagged two goals after moments of brilliance from Suarez and a third from a defensive mistake. It seems this is the role Kuyt should have been playing all along. What Sunday showed is that he is not a useless striker; he is just a bad lone-striker.
Whereas before Kuyt would find himself with space on the right of the pitch and had to try and pass or dribble, on Sunday he just kicked the ball in the goal. His work rate makes him perfect for this, and he has the off-the-ball ability to be a good poacher, in a 4-4-2 system.
Rather than labelling this performance as the moment an unsung hero proved his critics wrong, I would see it as a heroic performance from a good player, who finally got to play in the position and system that best suited him. Well done Kenny Dalglish, well done Dirk Kuyt.
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