It’s never nice to single out players for personal attacks but with Brendan Rodgers facing the chop his methods and signings have to come under the microscope.
Against Aston Villa there was one player in particular that stood out for all the wrong reasons. The young German defender Emre Can looked unsure and out of place. He perfectly summed up his manager’s predicament.
It feels particularly harsh to criticise Can when his age is taken in consideration. At only 21 he has a long future ahead of him. This isn’t an exposé saying he’s a complete fraud, it’s pointing out he’s not the man Liverpool require right now.
Being seen as a utility player can be a burden. Emre only need ask his new teammate James Milner the problems that come when a manager thinks you can play anywhere. It makes a player an invaluable member of the squad without ever becoming a must-have in the team.
The young German can play at full back, defensive midfielder or as we saw on Saturday, a centre back. It’s usually best practise to allow a youngster to become an expert in one role before developing secondary and tertiary positions. Having stared out as a defensive midfielder this still looks to be his most natural role. Unfortunately it isn’t one he’s made his own for Liverpool.
He’s had over 30 games for the Anfield club and he finds himself in development purgatory. Fans of the Merseyside team can’t defend his age when they’ve written off Raheem Sterling, who is a year younger. In this time he could have been a figurehead in phase two of Brendan’s plans. After reaching the Champions League but requiring subtle reshaping with the loss of star man Luis Suarez, the opportunity was available to many to become necessities.
The Aston Villa performance underlined that Can is going to come up short. As a player familiar with deep midfield roles distribution should be the strongest element to his game, however, on Saturday he made erratic clearances and poor judgements in this area. If he isn’t a natural centre back certain deficiencies for the role can be forgiven, but if his bread and butter attributes are failing then his long term role in the team has to be questioned.
Lucas Leiva, even with Sturridge bagging two goals, was Liverpool’s best player on Saturday. He is a player most were ready to see the back of and playing in a position the promising young German international should have laid claim to by now.
Instead he still requires nurturing and development in a team that is desperate at the moment. Rodgers doesn’t have the luxury to have pet projects during this time. He needs instant results. It’s feasible Emre can’t be accommodated.
And if Brendan does go, a new manager may see no reason to tolerate a utility man that lacks a strong area.