After flirting with the idea of signing Emre Can for the past month or so, Liverpool finally have their man. The 20-year-old midfielder from Bayer Leverkusen is on his way to Anfield for £10m. For someone who was passed off by Bayern Munich, didn’t have too many clubs queuing for his signature and has played just one full season as a professional footballer that certainly seems like a lot of money to spend.
But Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has gone down the Arsene Wenger book of signing players, which is based more on future potential and suitability to the club than where they are at the moment. Although Can might not be a household name in European football, he is someone who has the potential to develop into a great midfielder in the coming years. His technical ability and versatility means that he is likely to fit in effortlessly into the Liverpool squad.
Now the question on every Liverpool fans lips will be, where does he play? Although he spent large chunks of the campaign with Bayer Leverkusen as a defensive midfielder, is that the position he is going to play at Anfield? Will he be Steven Gerrard’s long-term successor? Or will Rodgers make use of his versatility to play on the left flank? Here are some options for Rodgers on where he can play the talented German midfielder.
Alongside Gerrard/Henderson in a two-man defensive midfield
Comparison between Can and Liverpool’s central midfielders in the League last season
(All stats per whoscored)
Although both Gerrard and Henderson developed a fruitful partnership in central midfield last season, the arrival of Emre Can is likely to change all of that. The 34-year-old Gerrard is coming towards the end of his career and is unlikely to play every single minute of Liverpool’s campaign next season. This means that Rodgers needs someone to replace him in the long run and that is precisely one of the reasons why Can was brought in.
Can has shown that he has the pace, strength and the technical ability to play as a deep-lying playmaker. His numbers certainly back him, defensively, Can is similar to Lucas, who is Liverpool’s most defensive players, while at the same time combining Gerrard’s ability to go forward and join the attack. Although he might not figure prominently in the upcoming season, he is likely to be groomed under the tutelage of Gerrard as the Liverpool legend’s successor.
As the left-sided central midfielder in a 4-3-3
Against the top sides, Rodgers has shown that he prefers to shore up the midfield and leave the attackers to do their job. As this is the case, Can might just prove to be a perfect addition, especially if Liverpool employ a 4-3-3. With Gerrard and Henderson alongside him, doing the dirty work in midfield, Can is free to be the more attacking player.
Although Liverpool have just signed Lallana, another player who might be vying for this role, Rodgers is likely to use the Englishman further forward or on the left flank. Which leaves Can the freedom to foray forward and make the most of dribbling ability which is nothing short of phenomenal. Quick, strong, capable of picking out a pass and moving forward with great purpose, Can might just be the ideal player in that particular position for the Reds.
Can also play in defence
Although he is more suited to a midfield role, Emre Can has shown that he can also fill in at the back if necessary. Last season, he made quite a few appearances in defence for Bayer Leverkusen as injuries ravaged their squad. So, don’t be surprised if you see the 20-year-old playing as an emergency left back or centre back, if the situation demands it.
Although his defensive discipline leaves a lot to be desired, Can has shown that he can effectively do a job in defence. Although most Liverpool fans, Rodgers included, will be hoping to see him play in midfield, where he can assert himself and make the most of his ability.
Wherever Can plays, one thing is for sure, by snapping up this versatile 20-year-old Liverpool have immensely improved their squad, especially in midfield. With a season or two under his belt, Can looks like he has what it takes to replace Steven Gerrard. Coupling vision and immense technical ability with speed and dynamism, Liverpool might just have unearthed themselves a gem in Emre Can.