It’s been a strange start to the season for Liverpool midfielder Emre Can and one that nobody really saw coming.
An integral member of Jürgen Klopp’s team at the back end of last term, Can has yet to start a Premier League game this season and has had to patiently wait for his chance in the team.
The form of Adam Lallana, summer signing Georginio Wijnaldum and captain Jordan Henderson has made it difficult for anyone to replace them in the centre of Klopp’s machine.
The work ethic of all three players complements each other perfectly and despite some very problems at the beginning of the season; they have been excellent in recent weeks.
It has made Emre Can's life more difficult as he was expected to be a guaranteed starter as the season approached. Of course, nobody could have foreseen the disrupted pre-season that he would be involved in and it has meant that he is still searching for full match fitness as we enter the middle of October.
Can was one of the last of Liverpool’s squad to return for pre-season training due to Germany’s progression in the European Championships in the summer. It already meant he was behind the likes of Wijnaldum, Lallana and Henderson who had been getting themselves up to speed before Can joined up with the squad.
What's happened to the German?
Then came the numerous injuries which have plagued the start of his season and meant that even though he has appeared on the bench, a starting birth was never a reality even discounting the form of those around him.
An injury before the first game of the season against Arsenal meant he was left on the bench before entering the game with 20 minutes to go to help shore up the leaky Liverpool defence and help the Reds hold on to a 4-3 advantage.
He has been limited to one start this season which came in the rampant win over Burton, 5-0, in the second round of EFL Cup. Can provided a great balance in the centre of the park but as the game ticked down; one press too many saw him turn awkwardly on his ankle and instantly leave the pitch.
A place in the matchday squad against Tottenham was not forthcoming despite him travelling to London with the squad but initially the international break offered an opportunity to get back to full fitness and be ready to start his season proper.
That hope was quickly dampened when he returned early from international duty nursing another injury which delayed his progress once again and meant he missed games against Leicester and Chelsea. Since then he’s been fed small bits of action with three consecutive substitute appearances.
However, circumstances have meant that a start against Manchester United is very likely. Whilst both Lallana and Wijnaldum are not officially ruled out for the game on Monday night, Klopp appeared less than optimistic when asked about their chances of starting the game.
It leaves the door wide open for Can who has patiently waited up until this point to show what he can offer to the Liverpool team this season and try to win his place back and stay in the Liverpool starting eleven.
What role he takes on is another question because of the impressive recent form of captain Jordan Henderson. The England international has grown into his role at the base of Liverpool’s midfield despite some early season growing pains.
Can would naturally take up that position which would mean Henderson moving forward alongside possibly Philippe Coutinho if Lallana and Wijnaldum don’t make it but Klopp could easily deploy Can in the more advanced box-to-box midfielder role given his physical presence up against the likes of Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini.
The German international will realise how big this game could be in terms of his future in the team. If he plays well then he gives Klopp a massive problem as dropping him would be difficult but failing to put in a performance in such a big game would mean he could find himself on the bench for the foreseeable future.
Can will be chomping at the bit to get involved from the start on Monday and a positive 90 minutes in front of the Anfield crowd would give him ample opportunity to leave the bench behind and get back to being a significant cog in the Liverpool engine room.
Contract talks have gone quiet
Can’s contract has also been allowed to run down past the typical two-year mark when new deals are usually thrashed out and the player is tied down to the club for another four or five years. In the German international midfielder’s case it would appear to be a no brainer when the question arises as to whether Can should be handed a new contract.
The rumour mill suggested Can would be offered a deal at the beginning of this season but that has come and gone with no ink marked on the paper. The feeling that lack of playing time having a possible impact on whether this new contract is signed seems rather premature however.
The “Rolls-Royce” has developed hugely since he was first brought to the club in 2014 by Brendan Rodgers and some of his best form in a Liverpool shirt has come under current boss Jürgen Klopp.
It is continuously forgotten that Can is still only 22 and has much more to learn before he becomes the finished article despite being well on his way. At the age he is, Can is still a couple of years away from being at the “peak” of his powers and therefore tying him down to a new contract to make sure those years are spent in a Red shirt is something that should be high on Liverpool’s agenda.
It's a case of wait and see on the contract front but starting Monday, Can has the chance to properly start his season by helping Liverpool to a victory over Manchester United.