The defeat against Crystal Palace was Liverpool’s first under new manager Jurgen Klopp and fans are looking for players to blame. It’s natural of course. People, not just fans, aren’t able to process the unknown very well. If Liverpool lose it has to be because of something, it can’t just be one of those things that happens.
I’m a fan of Emre Can. The German powerhouse has an abundance of talent but as things stand the majority of this talent is just unfulfilled potential and it’s up to Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool to help him unlock that along with the player doing his best to evolve and mature.
Context is needed when looking at players. Since replacing the Injured Jordan Henderson against Bournemouth he’s played twelve 90 minute matches for Liverpool and another two for Germany. He came off against Crystal Palace after 65 minutes and it’s the first match he hasn’t completed all season when he’s started. We’re only in November and the Liverpool number 23 has amassed over 1400 minutes on the pitch. This from a player that was accused of being unfit and fat. He’s going to be fatigued and you can’t really criticise him for that.
Another criticism thrown his way is that he’s a lazy player. Now if anything calling Emre Can is fairly lazy in itself. Just because he’s not full throttle flying around the pitch for an entire 90 minutes indicate he’s lazy. Personally I’d call him inexperienced and naive with his positioning. You’ll find a really detailed piece here from Klopp’s first game in charge against Spurs and how Emre Can’s positioning isn’t up to scratch. That will come with experience though. It’s not laziness, it’ just naivety on his part.
This leads nicely into the fact people often forget that the German International is only 21. ‘<em>Young’ Joao Teixeira is older and yet people expect more from Emre Can</em>. Young players are prone to inconsistent performances. One week they can be a 7 and the next week a 4. Midfielders usually tend to find some consistent form around the 24/25 mark and I’m sure when he was signed the club had that in mind. If we’re short in midfield that’s down to the club, not the individual. We paid less for Emre Can because he wasn’t the finished article. Clubs we’re looking to topple have 3/4 £20 million plus midfielders in their squads whereas ourselves and Spurs, well the most both clubs have spent on a centre-midfielder is £16 million. Not to mention teams often play a three man midfield so our two are usually outnumbered to some extent.
Our most expensive midfielder at the club currently is Jordan Henderson and there a lot of similarities between our captain and Emre. Both arrived at the club with at a young age with a lot potential and fans overhyping them. Both misused by managers and both criticised by fans for not immediately delivering. Many fans didn’t see what Jordan brought to the team until towards the end of Brendan Rodgers’ first season in charge meaning he’d had almost two full seasons at Liverpool by that stage. Emre Can is still in his infancy at Liverpool. Jordan Henderson had Steven Gerrard at the time, he may not have been at his best but it’s still Steven Gerrard. The name alone takes the pressure off the other midfielders. Who does Emre Can have to do that for him?
Another fact that’s often overlooked is how Emre is still learning the centre-midfield role as a Premier League player. Last season he was primarily used as a defender so this sustained run as a midfielder under Klopp is the first proper taste he’s had there. So there will be a learning period for him still.
All of this whilst simultaneously carrying the burden of the Liverpool midfield due to Henderson being out injured. All things considered he’s not doing that bad of a job is he?
I don’t think you’ll find any fan saying he’s been a solid 10 but there have been games in which his talent has shone through. Off the top of my head I can recall Bolton in the FA Cup, Chelsea at Anfield last season and of course Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this season. Then there was Arsenal and Spurs this season in which he showed off various strengths he had. He’s also shown he’s trying to learn from his mistakes. Against Spurs and Everton he lashed at clearances and it lead to a chance and a goal. Against Palace he didn’t last at a clearance but instead tried to cushion the ball to Lucas who could then clear. It was the wrong decision, of course, but him not lashing it away shows he’s learning from past mistakes doesn’t it?
He may exude confidence but there will be self doubt. After two mistakes from lashing the ball away he’s no doubt hesitant about making it a third. I also feel he’s one of these players still lacking confidence deep down from the Brendan Rodgers days. I remember the match against Bordeaux when Can started as a centre-midfielder and got a whole 22 minutes there before Injury meant the squad was shuffled around and he went to defence. In that 22 minute spell he had our only shot on target, completed 4 successful dribbles and had 100% pass success rate. Doing so well and then being moved to defence must dent your confidence even if you know it’s a tactical move.
Has he been solid? Yes. Has he performed how you expected? Well that depends on what you expected. For me he has, but for those expecting him to run 40 yards, beat 5 men and lash the ball home then I guess they’ll be disappointed. There’s still lots for Emre Can to improve on and he’s nowhere near the finished article but to be writing him off is silly. Hopefully we’ll see a resurgent and refreshed Emre Can when Jordan Henderson returns and takes some of the strain off of him.