No player has ever confounded me as much as Dirk Kuyt. His lack of pace, and touch, and apple-polishing ways send me into a fury. What I mean is apple-polishing is that a lot of the time I feel that Kuyt gets as much time and plaudits simply because he always looks really busy. Some of that has to be that way because his lack of...well, skill, leads to things looking harder for him than it might for the more talented. And yet I can't sit here and tell you that Kuyt is dispensable. Because he isn't. And it makes my head hurt, that confusion.
Kuyt this season set a high for league goals for Liverpool, with 13. And they all seemed important. There was the hat trick against United (from a combined four feet), the penalty against Arsenal in the 15th minute of injury time or whatever it was, the second against City at home, the opener at Sunderland. All of those were big goals. Add to that Kuyt played all across the front line. Wide right, wide left, through the middle, Kuyt was asked to do it all. And he did it well, which is another thing that makes Kuyt important, outweighing all the things that make me ill. Again, a confounding player. In a season where Liverpool couldn't count on any forward for the whole season, Kuyt showed up almost all of the time and found a way to contribute.
Kuyt also seemed to strike an immediate chord with Luis Suarez -- though I suppose it's not all that hard to stand out of the way, let Suarez bamboozle three defenders and tap in the resulting pass. But with Carroll out for most of the second half, it was Kuyt and Suarez leading the attack for the most part. The fact that they struck up such a quick understanding was pivotal to the revival.
So where does that leave Kuyt? Well, probably still one of the first names on the team sheet. Or maybe not. While you can't argue with the raw numbers and the apparent heart, Kuyt could find himself as the first reserve in attack. And maybe he should. Liverpool are chasing a wide player, if not two. Jordan Henderson could find himself out wide a lot. So those starts in midfield should dwindle. Then it depends on the formation. A 4-4-2, in whatever alteration, would certainly see Carroll-Suarez as the forwards. A 4-3-3 could see Kuyt as part of the front three, but that would depend on whatever wide player is coming in. If it's Juan Mata, he's a better fit in that formation. Kuyt very well may find himself as the third striker.
And that's fine with me. It's hard not to fall in love with Kuyt's graft. Fans love him. He scores. He loves the club. He's active all over the pitch. But he's the type of player you look to improve on when you're trying to get back to the big time. There's still no touch. No pace. He can't really cross the ball. He's got a nose for the net, which is great in the middle. But players with more class are required. That doesn't mean Kuyt won't have a huge role to play. He will. Carroll will be hurt again, Suarez could be. And having a goal-sniffing Kuyt there to fill in would be a nice luxury. While the stat-sheet and fans' passion would suggest he would deserve a bigger role, he may be headed for another that makes more sense.