Dalglish should try Dirk Kuyt as Lucas replacement for Liverpool

Dirk Kuyt should be Lucas' replacement; photo by Danny Molyneux

The news that Lucas Leiva has been lost for the season with a torn ACL (something with which I can empathize as I am five weeks out from surgery to repair my own torn ACL, it sucks – best wishes to Lucas) will really test Liverpool’s squad as there is not a natural replacement for the Brazilian. The importance of the defense midfielder is one of the tactical evolutions of the last fifteen years. Charlie Adam is too slow, Jordan Henderson and the also injured Steven Gerrard are too attack minded, and Jay Spearing (who will probably get the job) has yet to prove himself. But Liverpool have a player with all the qualities you want in a defensive midfielder – quickness, energy, endeavor, discipline, and  the willingness to put in tackle after tackle – he just isn’t thought of for this position because he’s nominally a striker: Dirk Kuyt. 

It’s hard for me to say this, as I have long been down on Lucas – even last season when he was named the team’s player of the year, but Lucas has really come into his own and is one of the main reasons that Liverpool enter this weekend as the joint best-defense in the Premier League. He learned from a master when Javier Mascherano was at the club, and Lucas can now be seen breaking up play from sideline to sideline. He still struggles with his distribution, especially going forward, and he at times can get caught ahead of the ball. But there is no question that Lucas has emerged as one of the top defensive midfielders in the league and his presence in the Liverpool XI will be missed.

The position has grown in significance with the evolution of attacking play away from the static 4-4-2 into formations that favor more movement from the advanced players and tries to take advantage of the space between the midfield and defense and the gaps between defenders. It’s vital to have a player that can help break up attacks higher up the pitch and mark advanced players sneaking into space. 

But it is also a position unlike almost all others on the pitch in which the marginal advantage gained for a squad with one of the top five defensive midfielders over a team with a merely adequate one is far less that it is for central defenders, creative midfielders, or center forwards. Yet, the difference between having an adequate defensive midfielder and not having one at all is huge. So, if Liverpool can find a merely adequate replacement for Lucas, his loss won’t be crippling. But if they fail to find a player that can do enough of what is necessary, then they are in trouble.  

Of the players in Liverpool’s first team, Dirk Kuyt is the one who possesses the qualities to fill in for Lucas. Kuyt came to the club as a center forward, but has since more often filled in on the wing or as one of a group of attacking players rather than as a central striker. Former manager Rafa Benitez would deploy him as a defensive winger to nullify an opponent’s attacking full back or wide player. Regardless of where he plays, he can always be counted on to harass and pester when Liverpool are not in possession and his work rate is phenomenal. He’s never been a great passer, but he can play with the ball at his feet, so he can do what needs to be done from a position that doesn’t demand that its occupant pass with fluency.

The one question about Kuyt would be his positional awareness, as he’s not had any experience screening the back four. But when measured against the others competing to be Lucas’ replacement, he is still the best option. Adam has had his best two games in a Liverpool shirt against Chelsea and Manchester City, but he won’t be able to cover enough space. Henderson or Gerrard will have to fight hard to avoid racing up the field to join the attack, leaving big gaps which would easily be exposed by opposing attackers. Spearing may be the safest choice but I haven’t seen him display the same tenacity, quickness, or energy as Kuyt.

Coming off two wins against Chelsea and a draw against Man City in which Liverpool were the better team, they are poised to make a run up the table into the Champions League positions. The loss of Lucas hurts, but if Dalglish can find the right replacement, it will only be a blip. You may think I’m crazy, but that replacement is Dirk Kuyt.


16 Responses

  1. Is it April the 1st???

    • Short sharp and to the point.
      I won’t talk about his strengths but some of his weaknesses will be cruelly exposed in this position.
      Stop being so silly.
      Jay and Gerrard when fit.

  2. Are you mad? Kuyt has the first touch of a virgin. He’s great going forward, but in central midfield would be completely overrun. We have enough cover with Henderson, who is a central midfielder, with Adam, and Gerrard when he’s fit, and Spearing when he’s not. I#d rather have Reina in defensive midfield than Kuyt

  3. You can not be serious nobody gives the ball away more than kuyt the defencive players would be nervous wrecks .,his passing is poor to say the least no no definitely NO.

  4. Adam just doesn’t have the quickness to be a covering defensive midfielder. Henderson will wonder up the pitch leaving huge gaps. Gerrard would be wasted stuck in his own half. Yes, Sppearing is the safest pick.

    BUT everything you say about Kuyt is exactly what Liverpool fans used to say about Lucas – he can’t pass the ball to anyone in red, he has no touch (isn’t he Brazilian??).

    Kuyt is an intelligent player who is not very good passing the ball in attack – but he doesn’t have to do that if all his is doing is breaking up play. Think outside the box and you’ll see that the things that Kuyt does well are the things you want out of a defensive midfielder.

    And if he’s playing there, he wouldn’t be taking up space in the attack.

  5. Surely We would be better to get a footballer instead!
    Kuyt is without doubt the worst 1st team regular Liverpool have ever had. No touch, no speed, no football brain.

    • You’re a f-ing moron. Hat-trick at Man U. End of.

    • Mate, u have the brain of an ant. Kuyt is a very intelligent footballer which is why he has been a regular starter for Liverpool and Holland. Oh, but sorry, u know better than Benitez, Dalglish and van Marwijk.

  6. Lucas struggles with his distribution??? What Liverpool have u been watching mate. His passing accuracy and forward delivery to start off attacks is second to none. I’m sorry but u are clueless.

  7. You have got to be joking man… your grammar is awful swell by the way.

  8. We have a number of quality players who can replace Lucas: Spearing, Carragher, Aurelio, and Coates.

  9. The best player to bring in and cover for Lucas is, in my opinion, (wait for it) Martin Kelly.

    He can tackle, pass, has pace, awareness, and height. Think of how United deploy Jones, Kelly could do the same for Liverpool.

    Henderson, although a bright prospect, is not ready, he’s improving but still yet to fully convince. He’s also not a strong tackler.

    Spearing is a good tackler, but I have always felt he not quite up to the standard required – I’d love to be proved wrong – but I don’t feel he’s the answer.

    Kuyt is a workhorse, but I think he’d struggle centre mid.

    We need that defensive shield in midfield. Kelly is our best bet!


  10. U r an american journalist right ? lol

    • I am guessing he is, but at least he has the basic intelligence to utilize “you” and “are” in his statements. Ignorant mug.

  11. There is another – Carragher. He started out as midfield. He can put a tackle and will always give you 100%.

  12. I am not sure that Ken is totally wrong here, Kuyt has a work rate that exceeds most players. If he has the directives to be defensive I am sure he could do it.
    But I think that Andy is right, Kelly would suit in very good, his work rate is second to Kuyt and he has a good feet.
    And what is wrong with some of you people? Mocking him for being American? You are totally wasted!

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