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Transfer Dossier: Welcome to Anfield, Emre Can

By Ted Knutson | June 5, 2014 | Football


The transfer of Emre Can from Bayer Leverkusen to Liverpool has been officially announced, so I figured that was a good excuse to post some stats and info on the young German player.

First off, he’s only 20. The fact that he played a full season in Bundesliga in a Champions League side at that age is a very good indicator that Can is already something special. He’s also a full 6 feet tall and has a solid physical build. He’s not a left back/midfielder that is going to get pushed around much in the Premier League.

His time at Leverkusen this year was split almost evenly between left back and midfield, where he spent time as a box-to-box midfielder and a DM. Given Liverpool’s interest in Alberto Moreno, I’m going to guess that they see Can primarily as a midfielder, but one who can fill in at the left back spot should a rash of injuries occur.

Analyzing player stats across different positions is a pain, so I broke out the season splits for Can into midfield and left back. His CM/DMC radar looks like this:


And this is what it looks like when you compare him to Joe Allen last season:


As you can see from the overlay, aside from the tackling, these guys had fairly different production from midfield. (Unexpectedly, it might be more correct to directly compare his midfield splits versus Jordan Henderson instead of Liverpool's defensive mids.) Can was regularly involved in the attack and has excellent dribbling and scoring contribution stats. His defensive context stats are also worse than Allen’s, but that’s partly caused by Bundesliga league skew with relation to dribbles, etc.

Can is not as clean as Allen is, but again, he’s only 20. Additionally, Leverkusen weren’t exactly possession monsters last season – in fact, they were almost exactly at 50% - so Can was probably forced to make longer, less comfortable passes than you would typically make in a Liverpool side, thus pushing the passing percentage down a bit.

He’s good, but he’s also not the finished product.  He’ll get playing time, but don’t expect him to shove any regulars out of the lineup immediately.

Left Back Skills?
Can’s stats when deployed as a left back look like this


Interesting. The tackle and interception stats are good, though not great, but again the system Can played in was significantly different to what Liverpool employ. Bundesliga players seem to have a higher amount of successful dribbles than other leagues, but 4.63 per 90 is a lot, even in that league.  It’s also not a particularly small sample size, as it includes 8 full matches out wide. Stick him out wide, and Can can dribble extremely well (and his highlight vids from out there are a joy to watch). He didn’t cross the ball much on the whole, but when he did, he was pretty successful.

With his dribbling skills, he will definitely be able to get himself involved in the attack, either as a box-to-box midfielder or as an overlapping fullback. With further development, it's also possible he could end up as a wingback in certain formations.

As noted above, Can saw a large amount of playing time for a Champions League side at age 20. His stats were good there, and he’s still developing both physically and in how he reads the game. Liverpool allegedly only paid £9.7M for him when a similar player in England would probably go for double that. Can adds depth at two different spots of need for Liverpool, and could potentially be a world class talent in a couple of years.

In short, I love this deal.

Article by Ted Knutson