Analysing Emre Can’s struggles amid Borussia Dortmund’s midfield mess

Emre Can. (Photo by Joris Verwijst/BSR Agency/Getty Images)
Emre Can. (Photo by Joris Verwijst/BSR Agency/Getty Images) /
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Emre Can’s stock has never been higher, with the midfielder now club captain at Borussia Dortmund and a regular player for Germany. But what have Edin Terzic and Hansi Flick seen in Can to merit his newfound significance to club and country?

Often famed for his yellow cards and aggression, Emre Can does also have certain qualities that have helped him turn the switch since the start of 2023. The 29 year old certainly deserved to win the starting spot last season and has seen Borussia Dortmund put a lot of faith in him despite his inconsistencies persisting through in his best six month spell at the club.

Can also only played the equivalent of around 21 games, which is a fairly small sample size. Already in his prime, it is unlikely he will make a significant step forward in his play. But for now, he has avoided being replaced and is likely to play the most league minutes of his career this season.

In Possession

Borussia Dortmund’s high possession and dominant play with the ball will highlight a player’s ability and weaknesses in possession. While a player like Salih Özcan has been slated for struggling in a high possession side, his 88% pass accuracy is very strong statistically and up over 7% from his two Bundesliga seasons with Köln. However, his inability to do meaningful things in possession has rightfully been highlighted.

Similarly, last season Emre Can had his strongest campaign with BVB in terms of pass accuracy – 4% and 3% higher than his two previous seasons at the club. This indicates that Terzic has commanded his deeper midfielders to retain the ball.

Ball retention is Can’s strength in possession and this also fits the Borussia Dortmund system. But more is needed in the creative aspect of the game. And more has been asked of Can this season following the loss of BVB’s main ball progressing players.