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Emre Can, like many of the current Liverpool players, is a divisive figure in Jürgen Klopp's squad.

Some fans appreciate the fact the 23-year-old is inconsistent but when he's firing on all cylinders he's a player you want on your side as opposed to be facing you. Whereas others, those who sit on the opposite side of the fence, haven't got the patience to persist with a player who can follow up an 8/10 match with a series of 5/10 performances.

You're either sold on the idea that Can has a future at the heart of the Liverpool midfield or you want him sold. There's very rarely any middle ground.

It's a debate which has resurfaced over recent weeks for a number of reasons.

Firsly, James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo claimed negotiations over a new contract had stalled with the club failing to meet the player's wage demands.

Dave Maddock of the Mirror then revealed that Can's representatives wanted to his see current £35,000-per-week salary doubled but the club only wanted to pay the German international closer to £50,000 a week.


Finally, he's not been able to replicate his 2015-16 form. In a single match he can go from looking like a dominant centre-midfielder with the ability to play defence-splitting passes at will, to looking like a man five-yards off the pace with a limited passing range.

Look up the word frustrating in the dictionary and you would see a picture of the former Bayer Leverkusen midfielder.

The German midfielder then took to the media to explain the hold-up with his new deal had nothing to do with money but a lot to do with his playing role. He wanted to play as the deepest midfielder but it's a position captain Jordan Henderson has made his own this season.

“I’ve had calf problems for many years and it has been very difficult for me because I’ve played out of position which means more sprints and 10 minutes into the game I’ve not been able to feel my feet in a few games.

“I didn’t like to go to the press and say ‘I am injured’. I didn’t play well when it was my opportunity to play and it was my mistake. I play in a different position now and I don’t sprint too much. Last week was good, against Burnley was good and I was pain-free.

“When I play at the eight [position] I have to go forward and sprint more and I had a few problems with my calf. When I play at six [more of a holding role], you don’t have to sprint too much, you are in the middle and you have to make challenges and don’t have to go too far away.”

Emre Can Stepping Up In Jordan Henderson's Absence

He replaced Henderson for the trip to Leicester City. It couldn't have gone any worse for the Reds with the Foxes running out as 3-1 winners. The Liverpool midfield looked exposed, they lacked control and the Reds' no.23 was the scapegoat for a poor team performance.

It was a result which poured petrol onto the Can bonfire.

Patience is paying off?

However, Klopp's team bounced back from the disappointing defeat with a 3-1 win over Arsenal. The midfield looked to have clicked with Can at the base flanked by Gini Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana.

Following on from the result there was a lot of praise for the likes of Wijnaldum, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino, with Can's performance going under the radar.

Emre Can Stepping Up In Jordan Henderson's Absence Emre Can Stepping Up In Jordan Henderson's Absence

Here Can picks the ball up in a deep area and looks forward. There's a pass to James Milner on who is positioned just off the bottom of the picture; it's a progressive ball but it's not an incisive one. The German ignores that option and plays a pass between the Arsenal midfield, straight into the feet of Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian is able to turn on the ball and plays a pass in behind Skhodran Mustafi for the run of Firmino. Can's pass was simple but so effective.

Emre Can Stepping Up In Jordan Henderson's Absence Emre Can Stepping Up In Jordan Henderson's Absence

Just six minutes into the match and Can makes his intentions clear against Arsenal. There's a simple pass on to Joël Matip, to Can's right, or even a switch to Milner on the left. But the German takes it upon himself to drive Liverpool forward.

In the first picture the Gunners have all outfield players behind the ball but after the former Bayern Munich utility man has attacked the space, engaged the opposition with his positive play and then played a pass to Nathaniel Clyne on the right, it's practically four vs four in Arsenal's final third.

He takes the oppositions midfield out of the game with his proactive approach.


He followed up his solid performance against Arsenal with a match winning display against Burnley at Anfield.

Sean Dyche's men arrived on Merseyside with a game plan and took an early lead. They then look to sit back and back to look difficult for the Reds as they dictated where Klopp's men could have the ball and where they couldn't.

The home side managed to overturn the deficit with Can scoring the winner with a strike from outside the box – the teams first since the same player scored in the 4-3 loss to Bournemouth in December.

Emre Can Stepping Up In Jordan Henderson's Absence

Can could, and probably should, have finished the match with an assist to his name after Mané failed to make the most of a perfectly-weighted pass — a better first touch and the ex-Southampton man is clean through on goal.

Klopp then took his men to Pep Guardiola's Manchester City knowing a defeat would leave their Champions League hopes dangling by a thread.

Yet again, Can stepped up in another big match. He followed up a Man of the Match performance against Manchester United with another against their neighbours.


Yaya Touré is by no means the player of yesteryear but he's still been able to have an impact this season. However, Can made him look like he'd overstayed his welcome at the top level.

Emre Can Stepping Up In Jordan Henderson's Absence Emre Can Stepping Up In Jordan Henderson's Absence

It looked effortless for Can as he picked the ball up in his own half and ran at Touré. He knocked the ball past him and played a pass to Mané, who had taken up a position just ahead of the City defence. The Liverpool midfielder didn't even have to fend off a challenge, he just ran past the former Barcelona man as if he was running between cones.

Emre Can Stepping Up In Jordan Henderson's Absence Emre Can Stepping Up In Jordan Henderson's Absence

Can proved he wasn't a flat-track bully by practically doing the same thing to the much more athletic Fernandinho.

Can broke from deep in his own half, shrugged off the advances of the Brazilian before playing a clever reverse pass to Mané as he approached the heart of the City defence.

Three different performances since the loss to Leicester City but, nevertheless, three impressive ones. People can claim the opposition have, in theory, been perfectly suited to Liverpool, but putting it into practice isn't always straightforward.

The Reds have taken seven points from three tricky games in the absence of their skipper. Can has stepped up over recent weeks when it's mattered most. Perhaps he's even given Klopp a selection headache ahead of the Merseyside derby: does Henderson walk straight back into the team?