Emre Can interview: Liverpool midfielder enjoying ‘dangerous’ role
By Adam Bate
Last Updated: 29/11/16 12:33pm
Emre Can is yet to taste defeat in 12 appearances for Liverpool this season as he enjoys his best spell at the club. Adam Bate caught up with the Germany international to discuss his new role in midfield and why he would hate to play against Jurgen Klopp's side...
Having managed only two goals in his previous 94 senior appearances, Emre Can wasn't the most likely of scorers against Crystal Palace in October. But after netting the opener at Selhurst Park, the German followed it up with another next time out against Watford.
One of 13 players to find the net for Liverpool already this season, Can's newfound goalscoring form is a symptom of the expansive football now being played by Jurgen Klopp's side. But it also reflects his particular new role in this adventurous Liverpool team.
"It's a different role to last year when I played more as the No 6," Can explained as he geared up for a training session in Nike Football's new apparel. "That was more of a controlling position. Now I can attack more and my target is to score more goals and get more assists. I think it suits me because I like to run forward and to be dangerous."
It's a side to the 22-year-old's game that Liverpool supporters had not really seen before. Under Brendan Rodgers, he'd even been used as a defender - a consequence of the fact that the youngster "can play any role", according to Klopp.
Can feels that experience in Liverpool's back line has made him a better player. "It was very good to learn how to build the game and it was very important for me," he says. "I enjoyed my time there but I feel at home in the midfield position. That's where I like to be."
He's returned to midfield having added to his skill set. As well as scoring, Can is a formidable defensive presence in the middle of the pitch. Prior to the 2-0 win over Sunderland at the weekend, the statistics showed that he was winning possession of the ball more regularly than any other player in the Premier League this season.
That's an essential quality in a Klopp team. "We work on this every day on the training field," he explains. "Everybody knows that we counter-press. When we lose the ball we look to win it back as soon as possible. But you can't do it alone, you have to do it all together.
"If you see our performances from last year to this year, you can see that we have got better at it. It's a key part of our game without the ball. But with it we have to control the game and dominate. I think we're getting better at that every game. Everyone is working so hard."
Liverpool midfielders - Premier League 2016/17
|Player||Possession won||Per 90|
*Liverpool have the second most recoveries of possession of any team in the Premier League this season.
Not that Can was surprised by the demands that Klopp has placed on the team. He knew what to expect having faced his compatriot's Borussia Dortmund side in the Bundesliga. And he knows which side he's happier to be on now.
"It was never easy to play against him because his team's always plays with a counter-press," says Can. "It's not nice. It always feels like you have no time on the ball. Now I'm on his team and it's the opponents having to think about how difficult it is to play against us."
It was never easy to play against him because his team's always plays with a counter-press. It's not nice. It always feels like you have no time on the ball.
Emre Can on Jurgen Klopp
Can was a Bayer Leverkusen player when he last took on Klopp's Dortmund, but he'd first faced his team while with Bayern Munich as a teenager. His decision to leave Bayern in the summer of 2013 was a surprising one given that he'd already featured in the first team.
"I was very realistic," he says. "It was very important for me at that time that I play. I felt that I wasn't getting much game time and so I moved to Bayer Leverkusen. I think it was the right way because I played a lot of games there. Then the offer from Liverpool came."
There were challenges in that first season with Can claiming "the biggest difference is the physical" as well as finding it "a lot quicker" in England. At least there's some respite now with Liverpool out of Europe. The players are trying to view it as an opportunity.
"We have more time in the training sessions and it gives us the chance to try a lot of things," he says. "We have more time now but, of course, everyone knows we want to play in Europe. That has to be our target." Maybe he can even aim a little higher than that?
"We can still improve and there are lots of parts of the game for us to work on," he adds. "It's still early in the season and we have to think game to game but, of course, when you play for such a club as Liverpool you have to always be looking to win things.
"My first aim is to stay healthy and help the team. It wasn't an easy start for me as I came late to pre-season and then got an injury. But now I'm back and I'm trying to get back to my best. The atmosphere is good and we're winning games. We have to keep going like that."
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