Arsenal vs. Liverpool: Should Jordan Henderson or Dirk Kuyt Start for Liverpool?
Jordan Henderson came to Liverpool in a big-money signing this summer from Sunderland, and his decent preseason earned him a start against his old team last Saturday, on the opening weekend of the 2011-2012 Premier League season.
The 20-year-old impressed, along with his many new teammates, for the first half, but the team's performance as a whole dipped after halftime. Henderson was substituted for the battle-tested and vastly experienced Dirk Kuyt in the 60th minute.
It was a good debut performance for Henderson, but he faded in the second half. By the time Kuyt came on, Sunderland had equalized and Liverpool's play wasn't as fluid as in the first half. The Dutchman didn't have much of an effect in the last 30 minutes.
It was a surprise to see Kuyt on the bench, but that could frequently be the case this season.
Manager Kenny Dalglish brought in three new midfielders this summer—Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing—and he got Alberto Aquilani back from a loan deal at Juventus.
Throw in Lucas Leiva, Raul Meireles and Steven Gerrard, and it's clear that midfield is a very stacked area for the Reds. If Dalglish can add a centre-back before the transfer window closes, Liverpool will be a very deep team from top to bottom.
In fact, having so many players should create a slight headache for the manager before each match. A good headache, though.
Kuyt makes it particularly difficult because he can play as a striker or right-sided midfielder.
However, it's a problem that Kenny Dalglish and Reds fans should be very happy to have. Deciding between several quality players who can each improve your side in different ways is a luxury that the Reds really haven't had much of in recent years.
Last season, Kuyt formed a good understanding with striker Luis Suarez, so it was a little curious to not see them both in the starting lineup. As it turned out, they weren't able to reconnect against Sunderland because Suarez was clearly tired after only returning to Liverpool a week before the match.
So, who should get the start at Arsenal on Saturday?
Who should get the start, knowing that Liverpool have never won at the Emirates, but also that Arsenal is a very depleted club, especially in midfield?
Cesc Fabregas has finally gone to Barcelona, and Samir Nasri is millimeters away from joining Manchester City. Midfielder Alex Song and new striker Gervinho are both serving three-match bans after the game at Newcastle last weekend (with help from Joey Barton).
More importantly, perhaps, is who the Gunners won't have at the back. Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny looked good at St. James' Park, but neither defense was really tested.
Andy Carroll scored the winner at Arsenal last season (with Newcastle), and he looked sharp for Liverpool at the weekend. Having a player like Kuyt next to him, a player who never stops working, could be a big factor and could tire the Arsenal defense out.
Having Kuyt in the game also means that Liverpool can drift between having two and three strikers up front. Suarez can also drop back occasionally to add an extra man to the midfield.
Kuyt also brings the veteran experience that is often needed in big games like this. Even against a weakened Arsenal side, Liverpool need to be sharp and Dalglish should put out his surest lineup, which includes Kuyt.
Of all the new signings who debuted against Sunderland, Henderson faded the fastest. Having Kuyt in the starting lineup would be a better way to get the three points on Saturday.
Overall, Reds fans can expect this discussion to come up often this season about several players.
Not Joe Cole, though. Get him out of here already.
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