Emre Can: Liverpool's growing midfield talent

Martin King waxes lyrical about Emre Can and how the young German has come on in leaps and bounds since signing for Liverpool in 2014.

Upon his arrival from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen in 2014, Emre Can was described by then-Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers as an “inspirational young talent”. He was only 20 years old back then and after taking only a season to impress in Leverkusen’s first team, the hope from Liverpool fans was that his career would only take further flight at Anfield.

Fast-forward two years, Emre Can’s career continues to blossom under Jürgen Klopp, whose influence has helped the 22-year-old improve a specific part of his game that was always key to making him a complete midfield player.

The boy Can score!

Strength, pace, vision, versatility.

Those are some of Can’s outstanding qualities, a package that has always made him an exciting midfield talent but question marks over his ability in front of goal (arguably the one quality that completes the package) have always been existent at Liverpool.

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In his only season at Leverkusen, Can scored four goals in all competitions but the following two seasons after that saw him struggle to replicate or even better that tally as a Reds player, managing a single goal in the 2014/15 season and only two in 2015/16.

Given that he’s always played in a team that has creative players in abundance – meaning that he has always created chances in front of goal – that earned him his fair share of criticism.

This season, however, the German is only one goal short of equaling the aforementioned tally, as in his ten Premier League appearances thus far, Can has scored three goals against Crystal Palace, Watford and most recently Bournemouth.

Improved attacking influence

It hasn’t only been the goals side of Can’s game that has improved this season, in fact, goals are only a small piece of the bigger picture and that is, the midfielder’s overall attacking influence has improved.

Courtesy of statistics from WhoScored.com, I’ve highlighted five other key areas of Can’s game that have improved in the league, compared to last season.

Last season, Can’s shots per game ratio was just one but this season, he managed least 2 shots per game – the most in his two years at Liverpool. The midfielder’s number of key passes per game has also increased from 1.1 to 1.2, whilst the fact that his dribbles per game ratio has decreased from 1.3 to just 1, highlights that he has been less ponderous and more decisive on the ball.

That is backed up by another decrease in the number of times Can has been fouled per game (from 1 to just 0.8 times) as well as the number of times he has been dispossessed (1.3 to 0.9 times per game) further proof that the 22 year-old is beginning to spend less time on the ball thinking up his next move and more time executing it.

The best is yet to come

I can recall listening to one Premier League commentator, during one of the Reds’ previous games, say that he heard that Can is Liverpool manager Klopp’s most nagged player.

Given that the pair share a native language, that doesn’t sound ridiculous at all but consider the fact that Can is one of the players who still have so much learning and improvement to achieve at the club and that claim, although one without a confirmed source, makes perfect sense.

The improvement the German has made this season on the attacking side of his game may be small, compared to his previous seasons at Anfield, however, it is still very significant, with the exciting fact being that he has a chance to greaten it, starting with Sunday’s game against West Ham United.

Whether Klopp nags him to do so or not, Can remains a growing midfield talent for Liverpool and the best is surely yet to come.

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