With all the talk in recent weeks of who needs to start, who deserves to start, and what the priorities should be when it comes to deciding who needs and deserves to start, it seemed like the perfect time for last week's poll to find who Liverpool Offside readers thought was the club's most underrated player. And if the poll itself was timely then, considering the local derby on Saturday, the player most thought wasn't getting nearly the respect he deserved was even moreso, as Dirk Kuyt ran away with 43.63% of the vote. Which either means that he's really underrated or really not all that underrated.
Meanwhile, Maxi Rodriguez had a strong showing in second with 26.54% and Jay Spearing came in third at 13.79%. The remaining vote was split between Jamie Carragher, Glen Johnson, and a compendium of others that appeared to largely consist of those who thought that Charlie Adam already qualified as the most underrated player at the club and those who thought that Lucas Leiva still qualified as the most underrated player at the club…
* Moving away from current first team players to start things off, Liverpool's kids are once again preparing to face European competition, as Norway's Molde visits Anfield on Thursday for both clubs' fifth match of the six-round NextGen Series group stages. After covering the tournament with some interest in its early stages, technical difficulties caused problems in recent weeks: First there was no publicly released video either during or after Liverpool's 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg last Wednesday, while before that a 4-0 victory at Molde fell right in the middle of the stretch where the Liverpool Offside was out of commission. This time around, however, the match kicks off from Anfield at 7PM local time on Thursday, and with our site back up and the game scheduled for LFCtv live and online our coverage will be back on schedule, too.
When it comes to the competition itself and Liverpool's current standings, the club is tied with Wolfsburg in second place on four points with two group-stage matches left, though last-place Molde on three points and first-place Sporting on nine have a game in hand. With the top two sides set to move on to the elimination round in January, it means that this is nearly a must win game for Liverpool with only a trip to the Portuguese frontrunners remaining after Thursday's showdown.
* Back with first team concerns, Martin Atkinson is set to officiate Saturday's derby match, and let's face it, no matter who had been picked it would have lead to grumbles and hand-wringing. Atkinson's last appearance in the fixture was during Liverpool's 1-0 victory at Anfield in 2010, a match won despite the referee giving Sotirios Kyrgiakos a deserved red card for an ugly tackle on Marouane Fellaini minutes after failing to give Steven Pienaar an equally deserved red for an equally ugly tackle on Javier Mascherano. But other than only putting Liverpool down a man when both sides should have been down a man he did a decent job.
No matter what happened last time out, though, at least he's not Howard Webb. And really, given that it's Everton, the most important thing isn't who the head referee is: It's whether Dirk Kuyt—scorer of the winning goal in the aforementioned 1-0 victory over Everton as well as numerous other markers against the Blues—starts.
* Speaking of Kuyt, Nate of Oh You Beauty embarks on a largely commentary-free presentation of the facts and figures left behind from the last four starts the Dutch attacker and Jordan Henderson have each made on the right of Kenny Dalglish's frequently employed 4222 formation.
Talk of avoiding being overly critical of Henderson regardless of what the numbers might seem to say—or what people think they see in the actual matches separate from any numbers—is commendable, but for most the question isn't so much about Henderson or what he might one day amount to as it is about whether it makes more sense to start Kuyt for the time being and ease the youngster into the starting eleven more slowly. And on that front, though Henderson comes out ahead more often than not on pass completion percentage, in most areas that reflect a player's influence on the game—from passes attempted to passes received to taking on opponents—Kuyt's numbers are vastly superior.
Statistics may not be everything, but right now the numbers do suggest that even if Henderson has a good footballing brain and the ability to play some tidy football, the man you want if you're looking to take the match to the opponent is Kuyt—and that's without even getting into the defensive side of the game after Henderson took Saturday's Wolverhampton match as a chance to leave a second Liverpool right back exposed after he largely abandoned John Flanagan in the season opener. With Everton and then Manchester United on the horizon—and with Chelsea and Manchester City following soon afterwards—from the outside looking in it's hard to imagine a stretch where Dirk Kuyt would be more suited to helping determine the club's short-term fortunes.
We'll be back with more later on, but in the meantime, while you consider that when it comes to discussing players and prospects you're going to manage to get things wrong and offend somebody no matter what you say or do, and that moreover you're just as certain to offend somebody if you say nothing at all…