As soon as he was fit, Liverpool fans were clamouring for a return to the lineup for Emre Can. Jürgen Klopp, though, resisted, sticking with the midfield that had dismantled Leicester City for the Reds’ trip to Chelsea. It was a decision that paid off with a 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge.
The reasoning behind the decision became even more clear when Can did play, coming on in the second half against Derby County in the EFL Cup. The German midfielder might have been fit, but it was clear he wasn’t match fit. He wasn’t up to speed. He lacked, in a word, rhythm.
“Fitness is not a problem,” said Liverpool’s manager, reflecting on Can’s return to action on Tuesday night. “Emre is a player who has a strong, strong mentality and he can fight. But you saw again it’s about rhythm. You cannot go into a shop and buy rhythm. You need to work for it.
“That’s what we are doing. I’m not rushing it. Emre is cool enough and experienced enough and he knows the situation. So we can use him, that’s good. He is back, that’s very good. But, of course, I do not know who will play on the weekend and what will happen before then.”
Right now, a return to the midfield that beat Leicester and Chelsea in the league seems likeliest, with Jordan Henderson anchor behind Adam Lallana and Gini Wijnaldum. Beyond Saturday’s match, when Can will certainly be the first name off the bench in midfield, it’s harder to guess.
At this point, Lallana is close to undroppable. Yet in recent weeks, Henderson has begun to round into form, and Wijnaldum has been more than solid and was a player Klopp targeted in the summer transfer market. It’s going to be a tough choice, but Klopp says that’s a good thing:
“The most important is that the more players I have and the more difficult the choices for me, the better it is for LFC.”