Emre Can hasn't played a great deal for Liverpool since the 20-year-old arrived over the summer, but even from his limited appearances, it was clear he wasn't at his best against QPR on Sunday. And really, it's no surprise given he was making his return from a month-long layoff following his injury during the September international break.
He wasn't Liverpool's worst player on the day by any stretch, and he wasn't a liability, but he didn't provide the drive and dynamism from deep in midfield that were the hallmarks of his game at Bayer Leverkusen. Brendan Rodgers, though, is convinced that once he regains his fitness he will be an invaluable midfield presence for Liverpool moving forward.
"He worked his way through pre-season and got injured," said the manager. "Then [he] got back and was in a really good moment for us and then unfortunately got injured in the last international break. It has taken him up until the last 10 days to recover. Today I felt he was never going to last the game but if I could get him 60-65 minutes that would really help him."
In pre-season, Rodgers experimented with playing Can alongside Lucas in the double-pivot, and it appeared promising—Can's destructive influence complimenting Lucas' control and build-up play. Alongside Henderson in the double-pivot against QPR, though, that ability to build play and set the tempo was missing and the midfield struggled in possession.
It wasn't helped by Steven Gerrard and Mario Balotelli, neither of whom provided much in the way of movement in front of them. Flipping the midfield in the second helped, with Gerrard quicker to spot a pass while Henderson and Can shoed more movement ahead of him, but by then Can was beginning to tire and was replaced by Philippe Coutinho in a man of the match cameo.
"He can play in any of those three midfield positions," added Rodgers. "He prefers to play in that holding and controlling role, but he has also go the power and the pace to run forward. He is a multi-functional player that can play in any of those three midfield positions, so he's a footballer who will do very well for us."