Monday 5 December 2016

'Jurgen Klopp wanted us to be the fittest team in the league' - Emre Can reveals Liverpool's pre-season targets

Paul Wilson

Published 06/11/2016 | 02:30

Emre Can lost his place on the German team. Photo: PA
Emre Can lost his place on the German team. Photo: PA

Maybe Germany are playing only San Marino and maybe Mesut Ozil has also been given a rest by Joachim Low but there are still better places for a player to learn he has lost his place in the national squad than the press room at Liverpool's training ground.

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Emre Can was just coming to the end of a chat with the Sunday newspapers when a routine question about winning back his place in the Germany squad caught him slightly off guard. Low had only just made his announcement. "I'm not in there? Maybe the manager will call me or send me a message. Of course I want to get back into the Germany squad."

Apologies, Emre. No one likes to be the bearer of bad tidings, however unintentionally. The Liverpool midfielder was in the Germany squad for Euro 2016 but a combination of missing much of pre-season and picking up an early injury led to him losing his place at Anfield. Can was so immense towards the end of last season it was hard to imagine Jurgen Klopp doing anything else but building a side round him - he has often been described as the next Steven Gerrard - though it is equally important to remember he is 22 and still picking up experience.

Can was on Merseyside long before his compatriot Klopp arrived and, though the pair appeared to strike up a bond almost immediately, the player confirms he knew little about Klopp from before they started working together. "We can talk in German now, he always says nice things about me, but to be honest I didn't know too much about him," Can says. "I played against his Dortmund team twice but I didn't know him personally. I suppose I knew he had a reputation for being a little bit crazy and now I can see that's true, but only in a positive way. That's how he is.

"The main thing I remember from the Bundesliga is that it was never nice to play against his teams. They counterpressed, they made it hard for their opponents. If you had the ball, you would know the opponent was already coming and you would have to play it quickly. That is what I think teams are thinking when they have to play Liverpool now. If teams come to Anfield, I don't think they will be expecting to get an easy game.

"I remember the manager saying in pre-season that the target was to be the fittest team in the league. If you look at the statistics, we are the best for high intensity. We run a lot of kilometres. It takes time to adapt to the playing style that the manager wants but he has been here a year now, we know exactly what he wants us to do and so far it seems to be working."

Watford are the next team to put that theory to the test, the same Watford who beat Liverpool 3-0 at Vicarage Road last season and sit comfortably in the top half of the Premier League table.

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