Emre Can’s future may lie in midfield, but over the past two months he has broken into Liverpool’s first team as a defender. Having moved up the pitch and impressed late on in his last two appearances, and with both Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva out injured, that future could come as soon as the weekend when Liverpool face Crystal Palace in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
"When we were monitoring him and brought him into Liverpool we knew he could play at centre half," said Colin Pascoe, filling in at the pre-match press conference with Brendan Rodgers off on club business in Italy. "An opportunity arose for him to come into the back three, and he’s been fantastic at it. But he showed the other night when he stepped into midfield that that’s his position; that’s where he wants to play."
Can had been a nailed on starter at Bayer Leverkusen, and when he put in a few strong pre-season performances many expected the same for him in Liverpool’s midfield. At the very least there were expectations that his presence in the squad would allow for Steven Gerrard to be rested and rotated more regularly than the aging captain had been in recent seasons. Instead, Can found himself struggling for minutes early on.
Now, after two months of impressive performances mostly as part of the three-man backline, Can is favourite to step up into midfield alongside Jordan Henderson. Joe Allen is also a possibility to be introduced there, but Can’s cameos in midfield the past two games have been highly impressive and Rodgers’ decision to reintroduce Dejan Lovren and push Can forward against Tottenham seems a likely preview for the weekend.
"He didn’t moan about anything, didn’t knock on the manager’s door, he just got on with it and worked hard," added Pascoe. "He waited for an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. He’s been a leader, he’s a leader on the pitch, and he’s been fantastic."