Liverpool have reportedly bolstered their midfield options by agreeing a deal in principle with Bayern Leverkusen for Emre Can. The midfielder is expected to travel to Liverpool next week to complete the remaining constraints of his deal. This deal wouldn’t create much buzz in the opposing camp at the moment as the midfielder is still raw and he might be struggling for first team action as Steven Gerrard, Sterling and Coutinho are still expected to lead the line next season. However, with a timely signing announced by Liverpool just before the World Cup, one thing is for sure that Lucas Leiva’s position is endangered.
When Steven Gerrard will run out of steam in next two to three seasons, Liverpool would be looking for a midfielder who can play the holding role well. By virtue of their fluid passing and strong attacking mentality football, this is a position that is vital for the Reds as more than often it is the defending midfielder who is in way of a strong counter attack. After switching to Leverkusen from Munich for more first team action, the former Bayern Munich youngster played in 29 matches for his new team scoring 3 goals in the process. Here are his stats compared with Lucas (stats are per game):
While Lucas Leiva leads the race in terms of tackles on a narrow road, it is astonishing to note that the 20 year old German has given him a tough time in interceptions as well. Lucas is known in the Liverpool squad for his tackling skills, however, as the stats mentioned above suggest, the new Liverpool signing has all the qualities to beat his predecessor in a Liverpool shirt.
They say attack is the best form of defence and as it seems from this transfer, Liverpool are strongly believing in this. After employing an acutely defensive midfielder in Lucas for years and seeing the outcome before scoring 102 goals this season, Liverpool have come to know what their strength is. In terms of Emre can, they got a midfielder whose passing stats aren’t the most impressive, but whose desire to go forward is addictive for many fans. Emre is that type of a midfielder who likes to play upfront in between the lines and have an eye for scoring goals unlike Lucas who wants to sit back and orchestra the attack from there in a role that doesn’t seem to fit in this Liverpool team next season.
Keeping in mind his basic position, the shots to goal conversion percentage is phenomenal for any defensive midfielder. Moreover, the shots on target data suggest that the midfielder likes to go forward on more occasions than Lucas and isn’t afraid to test the keeper any time – as opposed to the Brazilian who has just fired 9 shots this season for the Reds in response to which the German has shot 29 times.
In the presence of ever glowing Luis Suarez up front and Raheem Sterling and Coutinho in their attacking midfield ranks, this is a domain which might have gone unnoticed in the case for Can. However, as the 13 assists created by Steven Gerrard puts a limelight on an attacking role of a defensive midfielder, Liverpool fans might be looking towards their new signing to show at least glimpses of the same mantra in his 1st season and the two-footed German has plenty to offer in this respect.
Although stats should be read with a pinch of salt, the above comparison shows that Emre Can has a desire of going forward on numerous occasions. This in itself can cause problems for a Liverpool side who are looking for a defensive midfielder rather than one who leaves his position and can be caught on the counter attack. With his age factor and maturity yet to come, the German international is likely to learn from his mistakes in the long run. It could also be seen as a positive that he can play in multiple positions but that analysis is for another article!
In the long run
Although Emre Can is young and seems to be more energetic than Lucas there is no substitute for the experience of playing in the Premier League. Once previously in history Liverpool had decided to replace experience with promise and when Xabi Alonso left and Lucas Leiva filled his boots. Although you couldn’t compare the two time Champions League winner and the out of form Brazilian, Lucas has been the best option to replace Gerrard that Liverpool have had – this may now change with the arrival of Emre Can. For this season though, Liverpool should look to keep both Lucas Leiva and Emre Can as a hefty playing schedule awaits them next season and a larger squad is vital if they wish to challenge on all fronts.