On Emre Can

With the January transfer window almost upon us, it’s time for speculation to take centre stage again.

ITK accounts on Twitter, the customary meltdown on social media and the false dawns of premature excitement is almost upon us yet again for the first time in five months. Will Philippe Coutinho get his dream move to Barcelona? Will Klopp go all out for a centre-back whose name isn’t Virgil van Dijk? And finally, will midfielder Emre Can finally move onto pastures new?

In this article, the emphasis will especially be on the latter. With the Reds sweating over the future of Brazilian playmaker Coutinho, speculation regarding Emre Can’s future is also currently circling like vultures.

The German international joined Liverpool, then managed by Brendan Rodgers, for £10million in June 2014. After starring in Bayern Munich’s 2013/14 season largely in a defensive midfield role under Pep Guardiola, Can’s performances attracted an array of interest from Europe’s top clubs – with the Merseysiders winning the race for the versatile young midfielder.

However, it wasn’t until October in the 2014/15 season that he finally was handed his first start in a Liverpool shirt under Brendan Rodgers away at QPR. The ex-Bayern midfielder was beginning to show his worth as a box-to-box midfielder, but spent most of the season featuring as a centre-back in Rodgers’ 3-4-2-1 system which lead to an upturn in fortunes for the German.

It would prove to be a tumultuous end to the season for Can, however. Rodgers clearly saw him as a right-back, which would prove to be a disastrous decision as Liverpool’s season began to collapse towards the backend of the season. In the five games of which he featured as a right-back, he was dribbled past more times per 90 minutes on average (1.8) than any other right-back in the Premier League who had made five or more appearances.

With Can regularly featuring in a central midfield role under manager Jurgen Klopp, he enjoyed a new lease of life in the 2015/16 season – with his probing runs in behind and impressive ball-playing abilities opening the door for him to play as a centre-back.

In the 2016/17 season though, the £10million man appeared to struggle with rustiness for most of the campaign – with midfield counterparts Jordan Henderson and new signing Georginio Wijnaldum divulging their influence on the team as well as maintaining balance in the middle of the park. With Can one of many players suffering from fatigue towards the festive period of the season, it wasn’t until April when we saw glimpses of Emre Can’s potential as a deep-lying midfielder.

His detractors will argue that he’s too inconsistent – whilst his biggest advocates will debate the fact that he should be starting deeper for Liverpool. And to this current day, many Liverpool supporters have found themselves thinking, is Can a player the Reds can afford to lose in January or next summer?

With Liverpool’s ingenious attacking quartet in Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, it is difficult to see where Can fits in. It is even possible to argue that the side is weaker whenever he starts alongside captain, Jordan Henderson.

This was evident in the 1-1 draw v Spartak Moscow back in September, and more recently – when he started alongside the creative fulcrum in Philippe Coutinho in the 0-0 draw with West Brom; but still produced a careless display abundant in silly fouls.

If he was one of the side’s more important players, why can’t he perform in midfield when others have an off-day regularly enough? At only 23 though, it is evident that the German international can only learn and develop under Jurgen Klopp. Although we are yet to see cocnrete evidence of this for a sustained period, it is important that Liverpool fans give him the precious commodity of time.

On the flip side though, some will also pose the question as to why the club are keeping a player on their books who thinks they are bigger than the club altogether?

A similar situation has happened before with Liverpool in the window back in the past – with Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard being linked with moves during the transfer window, only for the club to give their left arm in keeping them at the club. This would prove to pay dividends, as Gerrard went onto become a club icon for the club. Whilst, Suarez, would go on to play a pivotal part in the Reds’ incredible title challenge back in the 2013/14 challenge.

But, the truth is, is he one of Jurgen Klopp’s more important players? Can the club afford to let him go? With the eagerly anticipated arrival of Lepzig midfielder Naby Keita to come soon next summer, it would be hard to see where Can would slot into the side if another defensive midfielder is brought in or Coutinho stays.

Whatever the climax, there is no denying Emre Can is indeed a versatile young talent who has proven his worth before. But he arguably isn’t one of the club’s more important players at present, one would argue.

Writer: Stephen Lindell/@SteLindellLFC
Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC