It only takes a glance at Liverpool’s bench to realise the strength in depth that Jurgen Klopp has managed to accumulate in the space of a year at Anfield. On Saturday, he had Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge, Simon Mignolet and Georginio Wijnaldum as some of his options, all of whom have been big parts of the side in the last year.
Whilst Origi, Sturridge and Mignolet have all be phased out of the side thanks to impressive performances from new signings or improved players, Wijnaldum was missing due to an injury he picked up whilst on international duty with the Netherlands, allowing Emre Can the chance to come into the team against both Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion.
So how did Can get on? In short, he played pretty well. Considering he is just recovering from an ankle injury himself, the German has provided energy, power and a willingness to get into the box in his two appearances, showcasing his surprisingly good feet as well as his ability to join in the pressing game which has become synonymous with the Reds.
His pressure on Darren Fletcher was, after all, influential in Philippe Coutinho’s goal, and he also played in Roberto Firmino to assist Sadio Mane’s opener. Can made a big contribution on Saturday.
However, the question on whether Can still fits comfortably into the team must be answered. Jordan Henderson has grown into his defensive midfield role, providing a mature base from which the Reds can build attacks. Adam Lallana’s incredibly trickery and classy feet have seen him become as important as any name on the teamsheet. Which means the only role in midfield currently up for grabs is between Can and Wijnaldum.
The first observation that must be made is that Wijnaldum is a much more attacking player than Can. Traditionally a number 10, compared to Can’s defensive roots, the Dutchman looks far more natural in the box, even if he is yet to score for his new club.
More than that, Wijnaldum looks to have found a happy medium between work off the ball and skill on it, making him a better fit for Liverpool’s more attacking roles. He doesn’t panic as much as Can occasionally does when he is in the box, and has been rewarded for this calmness with two assists already this season.
Can’s attacking play is not bad, by any stretch, it is just not as finely tuned as Wijnaldum’s. His defensive abilities and work rate is higher, but against smaller clubs, the Reds are unlikely to need the German’s tenacity. Wijnaldum has been doing fine in that department all season.
Overall, there is not much difference between the two players, but the Reds have looked far more clinical with Wijnaldum in the team as opposed to Can. There will be times when playing the German will be more appropriate, but for now, Wijnaldum deserves to come back into the team when he is fully fit.
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