Even during the campaign that saw Liverpool come perilously close to lifting their first title in decades, the defence was a major issue. Probably the one that cost them the trophy come last May.
Brendan Rodgers thought he had addressed this issue with the acquisition of highly coveted Croatian centre back Dejan Lovren from Southampton. However, his nightmare start, combined with the injury to Daniel Sturridge at the other end, left them a shadow of the side they had been only months previous.
But Liverpool’s defensive salvation would come through another of their summer signings.
Emre Can, bought from German side Bayer Leverkusen for nearly £10 million was originally bought in as a cultured midfielder, someone, who along with Gerrard and Henderson could add more flair and technique into the central areas.
His early season form, like many of his counterparts was poor. Struggling to make the desired impact in a team which were doing the same.
Then at Burnley away, Rodgers made a change that would not only revitalise the team’s fortunes but kickstart the 21-year-old’s burgeoning Kop career. In the 11 league games since the switch, his side have only conceded a miserly six goals, recording seven clean sheets on the way.
Can has developed into a defender in the Daniel Agger mould, assertive and strong in defensive situations while attacking with real intent and quality.
Although, the switch to three at the back has been partly responsible for the upturn in fortunes at Anfield, the colossal performances of their new German defender have been the main reason for the dramatic turnaround.
While the fans on the Kop still have their reservations about almost every other defender (and keeper) in their squad, Can has become a mainstay. One that can be trusted and one that is becoming the first name on the teamsheet.
It may have been a stroke of luck, or the plan all along, but Rodgers has found a combination in defence that is as mean as any in the country. His calmness is the perfect antidote to the sometimes haphazard and calamitous Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel.
As well as his abilities on the pitch, his leadership skills have come to the fore, first to console Lovren after his penalty miss and first to bring the team together after Balotelli’s penalty saga against Besiktas. An approach the real captain could only have wished to take. With the captaincy situation still yet to be clarified, the German could be the man with the armband come next August.
His manager had previously stated the former Leverkusen man could be world class, at the time it seemed an almost laughable presumption. Now Rodgers is the man who is laughing.
Ironically Jamie Carragher, one of the club’s great centre backs, has only just vacated the 23 shirt that Can now wears. If his upward curve in English football can continue, Liverpool may have inadvertently stumbled upon his ready-made replacement.