Signed in the summer of 2014 from Bayer Levekusen for around £10million, Emre Can has instantly been perceived as the future of Liverpool. Supplied with a decent amount of talent on the ball, packing an excellent shot, great vision and touch for creating chances, while also being a proper powerhouse, he has all the tools necessary to make a top-class Premier League midfielder. Boldly he took the No.23 shirt, vacated a year earlier by the retirement of club legend Jamie Carragher.
However, the Merseyside ride for him has been anything but a straightforward one, even though that’s exactly what it should have been.
During his time as the Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers was seen differently by different people; sometimes even by the same people through different stages that have caused them to change their minds. Brought in by owners FSG to replace the club icon Kenny Dalglish in 2012, many doubted a manager unproven at top level, however great his exploits previously with Swansea might have been. Two years later he was lauded as one of the best managers in England after Liverpool came very close to winning the Premier League, only to be completely and utterly bereft of support over the following 15 months, ending with dismissal from the club.
One of the bright moments of Rodgers’ time though is the signing of Emre Can. The young German international’s first period at the club was nevertheless a trying one, as the team started the 2014/15 season by racking up some disappointing results. It was somewhere at the turn of the year when Rodgers finally decided on some drastic measures and switched to a three-at-the-back system, with Can employed at the right side of defence along with Martin Škrtel in the centre and Mamadou Sakho on the left. The shakeup yielded success and the Reds pulled an amazing season recovery, jumping from the bottom half of the table right into the very mix for Champions League qualification, where they eventually failed.
But Can had proven that he can be relied upon in defence as well, and his versatility became a valuable asset.
The Henderson Comparisons
One of Can’s problems however is that he is a midfield player similar to Jordan Henderson in style, and barring an injury or a huge dip in form, the captain of the team is always going be picked first. Therefore, one of the big questions that many have pondered lately is – can the two play together?
In a three-man midfield most deployed by the manager this season, there is sense in having only one of them in the starting lineup, taking care of the more defence-minded end of business and complemented by the lighter, more creative and technical duo of Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum.
But systems change over time, and should Jurgen Klopp at any point decide to revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation, the Can – Henderson combination sitting behind the three attacking midfielders seems a very good prospect as they would be perfectly capable of interchanging roles of carrying the ball forward and sitting very deep.
But it’s the prolonged absences of Henderson throughout this campaign, and the previous one as well, that perhaps stand as the most important aspect of this particular issue, and make a strong case for having Emre Can to rely on. And with the certainty of European involvement next season, as it stands most probably the Champions League, the German international shouldn’t be short of playing time either.
To Sign or Not to Sign
At the moment, the contract situation regarding this highly useful 23-year old is unclear. There have been reports of wages being the issue, while others have claimed it was the potential lack of playing time that was thought to be the obstacle to getting the problem sorted out.
But as has been pointed out above, with an extra competition to boost the number of games, playing time should not be a problem come next season.
With Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and most recently Dejan Lovren getting new improved deals for themselves this season, it is reasonable to assume Can’s problems will be sorted out after the season ends, with the club focusing on getting results that would get them qualified for Europe’s elite club competition right now.
Apart from the winter slump that saw the entire team under-perform in the absence of Joel Matip, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson, Can has shown that he can truly be relied upon. He was brilliant in several recent games. What particularly caught the eye in those games was the way he was prepared to “take the game by the scruff of the neck”, to take the ball and try to make something happen just as it started looking like the team had run out of steam. His audacity has therefore enabled him to score some spectacular, match-winning goals, and by extent to earn Liverpool some much-needed points in the race for top-four placement.
There should definitely be a future at Liverpool FC for Emre Can.