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
Emre Can. (Photo by Ralf Ibing – firo sportphoto/Getty Images) /

Without the ball

While Emre Can plays for a possession-heavy side which lowers his defensive numbers, there are other factors that affect them as well. By playing in a midfield two, Can’s defensive numbers should be increased especially as the three main attacking players in the system all have relatively low defensive numbers.

More importantly as it relates to Emre Can’s personality, his lack of self control regarding fouls and yellow cards leads to him being targeted by opposition attackers. Against Heidenheim, Can fouled Jan Niklas-Beste which led to a disallowed goal. This happened again later as Emre Can picked up his yellow card.

Can’s 3.89 tackles and interceptions last season were relatively strong numbers compared to Endo, Schlager, and Kohr. However only Schlager plays for a team with a comparable play style featuring a similar system which doesn’t rely on condensing the defensive lines to protect the midfield. Schlager is also an interesting case as his job is more about stopping counter-attacks with tactical fouls.

Can is often late to tactical fouls which forces him to take unnecessary yellow cards. This season, he has already been seen jogging back after being played out by flicks and one-twos including for a goal against Heidenheim. These situations of poor positioning and inability to read danger are indicative of his poor reading of the game.

Can has also already accumulated 1/4 of the yellow cards he did last season in just over 1/10th the minutes. With less defensive cover this season, Can’s small sample size of a yellow every 119 minutes might be closer to the outcome then last season’s every 237.5 minutes.

A key part of a good defensive midfielder’s game is often not winning the ball back or committing a tactical foul without receiving a yellow card, but simply forcing an attacking player in transition to turn towards their own goal and play a backwards pass. This is an area where Can has struggled consistently. This is not always down to his reading of the game but his physical abilities.

Emre Can’s lack of pace limits his ability in transition situations. It was always known he would have to defend more this season with the loss of Bellingham and his replacements both weaker defensively. Can’s abilities have not diminished from the previous season, the side’s ability to cover his limitations has just suffered.

Emre Can’s additional strengths are in the air. He has an aerial duel win rate of 67.4%. This is fairly good but does not cover for a player whose overall skill set is fairly easy to find elsewhere.

Next. How will Niclas Füllkrug fit in at Borussia Dortmund?. dark

Borussia Dortmund rejected Edson Álvarez for Emre Can and even gave him the captaincy. And after a poor start to the season from Can, the Black and Yellows now desperately need him to step up a notch. Edin Terzic fought for his player in the off-season and now must come up with a solution to hide his limitations.