Opinion: Change a must for Liverpool as Emre Can continues to regress

Opinion: Change a must for Liverpool as Emre Can continues to regress

Emre Can delivered another sub-par performance at the weekend as Liverpool's season sunk to another low at the KCOM Stadium. The German has struggled to replicate the form he showed last season, leaving many to question why Jürgen Klopp opted for him instead of Georginio Wijnaldum to partner Jordan Henderson in the midfield.

Leanne Prescott

A 1-1 stalemate with Premier League leaders Chelsea was thought to have put an end to Liverpool's disastrous January form.

Having crashed out of the EFL Cup and FA Cup, Liverpool's season has boiled down to fighting to secure Champions League football for next season - something that could make summer recruitment an awful lot easier.

The performance saw much more intent and energy return to their play and many were hopeful that the side had turned a corner.

However, Liverpool's season lurched to a new low at the weekend, with a predictable and pedestrian display against Hull City resulting in a 2-0 defeat.

With Sadio Mane set to partner Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino for the first time since the turn of the year, pre-match optimism was naturally quite high.

A quartet that had brushed teams aside with such ease earlier on in the season was expected to lift Liverpool back to their ruthlessly entertaining attacking football that put them in the mix for the title.

However, that wasn't the case at the KCOM Stadium, with the home side stifling Jürgen Klopp's side and adopting an all too familiar game plan that has seen the Reds struggle against the so-called 'weaker teams'.

Many eyebrows were raised over the inclusion of Emre Can in the starting line-up ahead of Georginio Wijnaldum. Both players put in good performances against the league leaders in mid-week, with the latter scoring a crucial late equaliser to salvage a point for Liverpool.

Thus, it was always going to be a tough decision to take one of them out against Hull but with Can in rather erratic form this season, many expected Wijnaldum to get the nod.

However, Klopp disagreed, instead opting for his German compatriot - a decision he was later made to rue.

Can's regression

Emre Can has been a shadow of his former self this season, with a poor performance against Hull the latest in a string of sub-par appearances.

While everyone except Jordan Henderson struggled to paint themselves in glory, the German's performance was particularly poor, with his regression continuing at an alarming rate.

Taking four or give touches where only one or two are needed, Can's ponderous use of the ball has halted the fluid and free-flowing football we have grown accustomed to seeing from Jürgen Klopp's side.

Likewise, his physical frame, while an asset defensively due to his strength, sees him resemble a bull in a china shop.

Lacking guile and intelligence on the ball, the 23-year-old has delivered a series of erratic performances over the course of the season, which has adversely affected his teammates and resulted in a much less cohesive and well run Liverpool machine.

An average passing accuracy of 82% in the Premier League this season reflects the quality Can has on the ball, but with many of those passes often backwards or lacking in intent, the German has become a real hindrance to the style of play Liverpool are trying to adopt.

His bullish and somewhat rugged style of play doesn't suit the slick football of Klopp's team and with ongoing issues over his calf, the decision to start him against Hull was all the more bemusing.


Mr. Energetic

When Wijnaldum first moved to Liverpool, many questioned where he would fit in to the side. Considered an attacking midfielder by many, with Coutinho and Lallana already in Liverpool's ranks it was hard to see where the Dutchman would fit in.

But fulfilling a role that few would have envisaged, Wijnaldum has made a real difference since joining in the summer.

It's hard to produce stand out performances in a team with an attacking trio as exciting as Liverpool's. With Mane, Coutinho and Firmino tearing up the league in the early stages of the season, Wijnaldum flew quietly under the radar, with many failing to see just what he brought to the side.

The Dutchman has actually proved to be a useful cog in the side for Jürgen Klopp, fitting seamlessly into the German's philosophy and linking the midfield and attack to provide added fluidity.

Picking passes with ease, Wijnaldum has knitted things together perfectly.

His guile and intellect on the ball have been crucial on a number of occasions and it's no coincidence therefore Liverpool's best performances have come when they've fielded a midfield trio of Wijnaldum, Henderson and Lallana.

The energy to his game makes him a much better fit for the gegenpressing style of football Klopp is trying to implement at Anfield, as opposed to the sluggish nature of Can's recent performances.

“I don’t understand why Georginio Wijnaldum was out of the side. I think he brings more energy and a bigger goal threat [than Can]” – Jamie Carragher

​One of the biggest criticisms Wijnaldum has faced during his time at the club is the lack of goal contribution to the side. Scoring just three times in 28 appearances, both Klopp and fans have called for the 26-year-old to burst forward more and add more end product to his game.

Pivotal headers against Chelsea and Manchester City show what he is capable of in the final third, and with one of those goals a match-winner, they could prove to be vital come the end of the season. Providing goals and assists, the Dutchman is the more productive of the two and offers Liverpool something Can hasn't this season.

The sheer manner of the performance at the weekend emphasises the need for change at Liverpool.

Experiencing arguably his worst campaign for the club, the rate of Can's regression has got to be a serious worry for Klopp and persistence with the German could have an adverse effect on his sides performance.

Wijnaldum is much the better fit in the midfield and his energy has made a real difference at times this season. Liverpool are at a real risk of seeing their season fade away, with Manchester United, who were 12 points behind at one stage, now just a point away from the Reds.

Liverpool cannot afford any more slip-ups and Wijnaldum's return to the starting line up is imperative if they want to see a change of fortunes. The change must happen - sooner rather than later.