With Steven Gerrard recently leaving Liverpool to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Liverpool lost not only their legend, but their general. With Gerrard having played various roles in central midfield at Anfield for the better part of two decades, Liverpool has a massive hole to fill. They not only need to replace a versatile midfielder – capable of filling any central role at any given time – but a leader. The task is challenging, the task is daunting, but the task may already be completed.
Emre Can is a young German midfielder with more experience at 21 than many midfielders have at 25. Can has played over 70 matches between Bayer Leverkusen and Liverpool covering positions such as center back, left fullback, defensive midfielder, and multiple roles as a central midfielder.
While Can isn’t incredibly large in stature, he plays an incredibly physical game – which has allowed him to succeed as both a left and central defender. He’s quick in his reactions, which allows him to win a majority of his tackles. With the ball at his feet, he’s calm and collected – and his poise has allowed him to play as a regista a few times. This season, his combination of vision and collectivity has allowed him to complete roughly 81% of his passes at an average distance of 19 meters.
To go on top of the rare combination of tough defense with smooth passing, Can is quite the capable attacker. This season he’s won almost 60% of his take-ons with an average of 1.06 take-ons per 90. He’s also managed to create 1.42 chances per 90. While Can’s shooting leaves something to be desired, it seems he realizes this and limits his shooting – adding intelligence to his already abundant physical skills.
His rare combination of skills has lead him to be the only midfielder in England to win more than 50% of of tackle attempts, take-ons, and aerial duels, and has done so while winning more than 1 per 90 minutes – being just one of four midfielders to do so.
Can still has some refining to do – as all 21-year-olds do – but Can is already an incredible player. A player that combines rough and silky play, one that can play both a possession and defensive game. Can is Liverpool’s midfielder for the present and future. Can is Liverpool’s next great midfielder.