By Rebecca Parry.
German Emre Can has displayed his versatility since being moved from midfield to defence – and with it, resurgent Reds are back to their best.
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Liverpool have had defensive problems left, right, and centre for the past 18 months. While it was phenomenal to finish runners-up in the Premier League last season, their ultimate downfall was the leaking of goals and poor positioning defensively.
It’s been a frustrating problem, which has continued into this term, for Brendan Rodgers. The first half of the season was disappointing due to the amount of goals conceded and for the lack of goals being scored in the absence of star striker Daniel Sturridge.
Reds boss Rodgers changed the system several weeks ago to try something different. Liverpool have worked under this system before, but he chose to introduce Emre Can into the back three. The German did make a few appearances in midfield earlier in the season, but was never a firm favourite in terms of the manager’s team selection at first.
Since Can has come in, we have witnessed his true potential and what he is capable of bringing to this Liverpool side. He always appears to have time on the ball and superbly creates space for others to run into – the sign of a truly cultured player.
The defence of Can, Martin Skrtel, and Mamadou Sakho has been the preferred choice for the past few weeks (fitness permitting) and thankfully, we’ve seen a much-improved back line. The 21-year-old has beautifully managed to settle a defence that has been hasty and panicky for a long time, bringing an indispensable calmness and composure.
What’s more, Can enjoys venturing up the pitch and providing the catalyst for attacks. In a style reminiscent of Daniel Agger, the composed German isn’t afraid to push when the time is just right, carrying the ball with such confidence, and producing chances for the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Lazar Markovic, and Sturridge.
Even though his main role was in the midfield in the past, Can has clearly excelled in defence recently and the whole back-three system has finally begun to click. Rodgers has also deployed Can in midfield during his recent spell in the starting XI, however, that produced some unwanted gaps between midfield and defence. Retreating back into position for the Manchester City game, he was once again a cool figure on the ball, and Liverpool’s overall performance was worthy of the win.
With Steven Gerrard’s imminent departure, Liverpool are on the lookout for leaders. Vice-captain Jordan Henderson has brought some of those crucial leadership qualities to the team, but it’s great to see that natural ability shining through in Can as well. Following the ‘penalty-gate’ saga with Mario Balotelli, Can was eager to bring the team together in the immediate aftermath and worked to console Dejan Lovren following his critical spot-kick miss in the Europa League on Thursday.
With many of Liverpool’s defensive struggles now in the past, the team look to have a future star on their hands. Can is adjusting and developing wonderfully in the English league already; and it seems he’s only going to continue getting better and better with each game.
Read more from Rebecca Parry here