Liverpool v Burnley 1-1, 60th minute. Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané all unable to put Liverpool ahead and with a terrible 2017 so far, someone needed to step up and drag the team to a very unfamiliar “ugly win”.
Up steps Emre Can, of all people. Currently going through a contract dispute and with many fans on his back over his performances this season, Can bangs one in from 30 yards to make it 2-1.
As he runs to the corner flag, flapping his arms up and down, teammates rushing to him, it was at this moment, for even a few seconds, fans forgot why Can was getting all the criticism he has been in recent months.
Then comes a trip to the Etihad the following week. Can puts in a man of the match performance as he bosses the midfield and proves why he deserves the contract he has been asking for.
But how did this all start? How did Can go from being seen as a future Liverpool captain to an average player in less than a year?
Well, let’s start at the end of last season. Villarreal at Anfield in the Europa League semi-final. The game where Can showcased to the world that he has the potential to be world class. That performance from Can is one of the best individual performances I have seen in the last five years from a Liverpool player.
Working in a midfield two in a 4-2-3-1, Can bossed the game, both in defence and attack. Every ball he won back started an attack, every pass was placed on a dime, every bursting run through the middle was unstoppable and all of this came after he ruptured ankle ligaments in the previous round against Borussia Dortmund just three weeks earlier.
He showed maturity and experience levels beyond his age. He was seen as the defensive midfielder fans have been begging for since the days of Javier Mascherano. He was fantastic throughout the entire season and it was clear that Jurgen Klopp saw him as a key player for Liverpool. Some fans even when as far as saying he could be future captain.
Obviously, with such a great 2015/16 campaign. fans expected a lot from Can at the beginning of the 2016/17 season but he hasn’t delivered. A switch in formation to 4-3-3 has seen the midfield two which Can flourished in changed to three and with Jordan Henderson nailing down the deeper of those three and Adam Lallana and Georginio Wijnaldum having amazing seasons, Can hasn’t seen a consistent amount of games.
Yet, when he has seen minutes on the pitch, he hasn’t shown the same performance levels which he showed last season. He seemed miles slower than everyone on the pitch, both mentally and physically. His decision making was awful, he released the ball way too late and when he finally did, it was often misplaced One game springs to mind, Sunderland away at the beginning of the year where the opposition scored two penalties, both caused by misplaced passes by Can.
Recently Can has been playing a lot of games due to Henderson’s injury, filling in the number six position and with some consistent game time, Can’s performances still continued to be quite bad, apart from the City game.
So with fans on his back, all Can should be focusing on is his performances but in the middle of this bad run, news broke that he has yet to agree to sign a new contract at the club because he believes he deserves more money than the club is offering.
Media scrutiny, bad form and a contract standoff will take it’s toll on any player, especially a 23 year old, which some fans seem to forgot. Can is still very young so this sort of lack of consistency and bad form isn’t out of the ordinary for a player going through what he currently is. He is yet to reach his peak but we have seen the player he can be, he just needs time and patience, from himself, Klopp and the fans.
Hopefully Liverpool do the smart thing and offer Can what he believes he’s worth. Yes the £100,000 per week he’s reportedly asking for isn’t warranted for his current ability or form, but that’s not what Liverpool should be basing his worth on, they should be basing his worth on potential and Emre Can has the potential to be world class.