The new look Liverpool team has been nothing short of exhilarating. One goal conceded in five games tells its own story about how good we have been defensively, but it is the Liverpool attack which has been the main talking point.
Luis Suarez has become an instant favourite on The Kop after scoring on his debut and hitting the woodwork twice in his first start. We are still waiting to see Andy Carroll, but 11 in 16 for Newcastle and a £35m price tag point to a very valuable addition to our attack. Gerrard is getting back to his best and Meireles is starting to look world class.
Waiting in the wings is Joe Cole, who has been a big disappointment so far this season. There is a feeling, though, that Steve Clarke can get the best out of him and Cole at his very best would be difficult to dislodge from our first eleven.
David Ngog and Danny Pacheco also deserve a mention. They have both been in outstanding form for Liverpool Reserves, who are enjoying an unbeaten run that stretches back to October. They are both very young and will be hungry for a chance to show Kenny what they can do.
And then there is Dirk Kuyt, who polarises opinion amongst fans. People generally fall into two camps when it comes to him: those who love his graft, and those who despair at his lack of craft.
Kuyt has been a great servant to the club and his work rate is outstanding. However, his first touch often leads to the second touch being a header or a tackle, he has been criticised for his lack of creativity and a goal return of 1 in 4 is not great for an attacking player.
Kuyt has been deployed as a centre forward of late and he has been outstanding. Against Stoke he played with his back to goal, held the ball up really well and was involved in everything going forward. When Suarez came on, it was Kuyt who set him up for his debut goal. The following chalkboard shows just how involved Kuyt was against Stoke, with 24 successful passes spread all around the Stoke City half of the field:
It was a similar story against Chelsea. Gerrard and Meireles were able to get forward so effectively because of the way Kuyt lead the line, chasing down everything and holding the ball up to bring them into play.
As good as he has been, Andy Carroll offers us more in terms of height, heading ability, shooting ability and his control. Carroll plays in the exact position where Kuyt has been playing and this may mean that Kuyt loses his place despite his good form.
Looking at the other three players in our front four, Suarez loves to pick the ball up from deep and so will most likely play on the left of the attack, Gerrard loves making bursting runs down the right hand side of midfield and Meireles is at his best when played centrally behind the striker. Kenny’s Liverpool team are incredibly fluid, so these general positions will change often during the course of a game, and all three have the football brain to interchange successfully.
When we play 4-2-3-1, Aurelio plays important role as the holding midfielder, supporting Lucas and covering for Johnson at left back when he gets forward. This means that, if Carroll is a certain starter (and I think he is), there is no room for Kuyt up front:
In a 3-5-2 formation, or more accurately a 3-3-3-1, the extra defender means that Kuyt, Carroll, Gerrard, Meireles and Suarez are fighting for four places up front. Again, I believe it will be Kuyt who makes way under this system:
There is one possible way that Kuyt can keep his place in a full strength team, and that is playing Gerrard in central midfield alongside Lucas. Kuyt would fit into this system well as an attacking inside right:
The problem with this system is that it does not get the best out of Gerrard. The last time Gerrard played this central midfield role was against Fulham and he did not have a particularly good game, drifting out of position and leaving Poulsen exposed in the centre.
My conclusion is that a front four of Gerrard, Meireles, Suarez and Carroll will work best regardless of the formation and having two midfielders or a third defender behind these four gives us stability.This means that, sad as it is to say, Dirk Kuyt loses his place in our first eleven.