When Steven Gerrard announced he would leave Liverpool at the end of the 2014/15 season, it meant a void would need to be filled in the middle of the park.
There was a gap for a box-to-box midfielder with the same attributes – pace, power, an eye for a pass and the ability to score goals – to step up to the plate in the absence of the Anfield legend.
For many Reds supporters, their ideal candidate was Emre Can. Despite Jordan Henderson taking over the armband from Gerrard and James Milner switching Manchester City for Anfield, there were a number of Kopites who believed Can should embrace the role.
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The German has certainly had a fair crack at the whip this campaign, especially after his compatriot Jurgen Klopp took the reins in October.
Can joined Liverpool for £10 million from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2014. He chose to move to Merseyside instead of returning to the bright lights of Bayern Munich as he wanted regular first-team action.
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Brendan Rodgers thought highly of Can.
"I think he can play and operate in any one of the three (midfield) positions,” the Northern Irishman said at the start of the season.
"When I met Emre and having seen him play in a whole raft of positions his great attribute is that he's a footballer, he understands the game.
"Whatever role he's asked to play he has this in-built brain for football that allows him to adjust and adapt.”
Can was given limited opportunities in the first-half of the 2014/15 season.
However when Rodgers switched to a three-man defence after the New Year, Can was a regular on the right-hand side. Although his frailties were exposed towards the end of the campaign, he showed a keen attitude playing out of position and was pleased to get minutes on the pitch.
Can continued his duties at the back this term until Klopp took the Anfield hotseat. Immediately, the Frankfurt-native was pushed into his natural central midfield role.
Liverpool fans relished the chance of seeing Can finally get the opportunity of playing in his most suited role. Given his physical attributes, many believed he would slot into Klopp’s pressing system with simplicity.
However, Can has somewhat flattered to deceive in his favoured position; in fact, there are an increasing number of fans on the Kop who are beginning to grow frustrated with him. He’s started every match bar one under Klopp in the league, but it is time he began proving his stock.
Although he’s still just 22-years-old, Can has a wealth of experience on his resume. Having won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich and has Champions League experience under his belt, he should be offering Klopp more.
Regarded as one of the club’s brightest young players, he hasn’t registered one goal nor assist in the Premier League this term. Compare that to the likes of Ross Barkley and Deli Alli, who have eight and seven league goals respectively to their names.
Granted, Barkley plays in a more advanced role; however, Can should be contributing more on the attack for his side.
The Germany international’s shooting must improve. Too often, he leaves goalkeepers untested when in decent positions outside the box or gives them easy saves; Kasper Schmeichel barely had to move when Can poked an effort into his arms in Liverpool’s 2-0 loss to Leicester City last week. His shot accuracy is just 50%, 9% lower than Barkley’s and is wasteful in dangerous positions.
Can has also proved he is careless in possession. Although he has the ability of playing a superb 50-yard spraying cross-field pass, he also can lack concentration and give the ball away in dangerous areas. He’s committed five defensive errors this term, more than any of this teammates and two of the mistakes have led to goals.
There are several candidates banging on the door for a start in the Liverpool team and, if Can does not improve, he could find himself demoted to the bench.
Joe Allen has proved himself over the last few weeks. Once seen as surplus to demands by many, Allen performed admirably coming off the bench on several occasions and opinion on him has changed.
He snatched a late equaliser against Arsenal and also showed his ice-cool nerves to slot his penalty past Jack Butland and send Liverpool into the League Cup final. He was also very good against West Ham United in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Allen looked likely to leave Merseyside during the January transfer window but his decent vein of form has meant he’s in contention of being a regular in Klopp’s side.
Cameron Brannagan snatched his opportunity with both hands against West Ham. Despite being just 19-years-old, he looked more than comfortable against the experienced pair of Alex Song and Pedro Obiang. Brannagan was simple, yet confident on the ball and rarely made a mistake against the Hammers and has a big future ahead.
Should Emre Can be dropped by Jurgen Klopp?
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