Borussia Dortmund boast a plethora of attacking riches, but there are a few key players who remain unsung figures within their squad. The versatile Emre Can again proved why he deserves more respect and credit for his performances after netting the winner in an excellent overall showing vs. Hertha Berlin this evening.
Lucien Favre’s Dortmund side kept their slim Bundesliga title hopes alive after a narrow 1-0 victory over Euro-chasing Hertha, as Can showed composure and precision to finish a well-worked move in the second-half, scoring his second goal of the campaign.
With Mats Hummels suspended, the 26-year-old slotted in seamlessly as their right-sided centre-back as part of a 3-4-2-1 formation alongside Manuel Akanji and Lukasz Piszczek.
Having played there regularly during the 2014-15 campaign with Liverpool, it’s a position that allows him to showcase his adaptability and distribution from deep.
He was kept busy but didn’t flinch under pressure: making a game-high seven clearances along with three interceptions, 95.2% pass completion and importantly, their winner.
The thing with Can is, he’s almost always doing this. The exclamation point on his performance in this instance is, obviously scoring their winner, but he relishes the dirty work in midfield which allows their more creative-minded players to flourish.
It’s an overused cliche but you only have to watch ten minutes of a Dortmund game to understand his importance. Last weekend against a plucky Paderborn, he was doing the same in a midfield duo alongside Thomas Delaney – harrying players out of possession, asserting himself on a game that for large periods, could have swung either way.
Axel Witsel is widely seen as a better midfield partner for Can than Delaney, who prides himself more on his playmaking than defensive capabilities, but the point stands.
He feels more important at Dortmund than perhaps anywhere in his career to date and his assertive displays have echoed that, because he’s already a mainstay.
Confident as ever in possession, his ball-winning skills and tenacity have helped them become a tougher team to break down. But he’s unafraid to venture forward, as evidenced by his knack for getting into dangerous scoring positions more often than not.
Can proving an ever-present figure for Dortmund
Despite joining BVB on an initial loan deal on deadline day, the Germany international has already played three times the amount of minutes Juventus afforded him this term.
Unsurprisingly, they have since exercised an option to buy in the loan agreement, for a reported £20.8m. He’s been ever-present since scoring a screamer against former club Bayer Leverkusen on his return to Germany’s top-flight and not looked back since.
After being controversially left out of Juve’s Champions League squad by Maurizio Sarri last autumn, he was eligible to play for his new employers and featured during their two-legged defeat by Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain before the enforced break.
Despite failing to progress beyond the UCL last-16 for the third consecutive season, Can and his ambitious BVB teammates have responded defiantly since play resumed in May.
It’s why Owen Hargreaves and many critics suggested Dortmund would, at the very least, have had a better chance to beat Bayern Munich with a fully fit Can and Jadon Sancho.
The pair, both recovering from minor injuries, came on against Hansi Flick’s side in a double substitution after half-time for Delaney and Julian Brandt.
Joshua Kimmich’s sumptuous chip had already broken the deadlock just before the interval, so by this point, the damage was done and Bayern soaked up pressure expertly.
Sancho’s close shave and what’s next for Dortmund?
On another day, Sancho would have earned a second-half brace against Hertha.
Instead, he flashed wide from close-range after another well-worked move before Rune Jarstein denied him too after an intricate play which saw him twist and turn his way into the box after exchanging passes with fullbacks Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro:
Dortmund remain seven points behind leaders Bayern, after their 4-2 comeback win over Euro-chasing Bayer Leverkusen in one of the day’s 2.30pm KOs.
With four league games left to play, it’s unlikely the title race will go down to the wire like last season, but Can’s arrival has helped improve them and should prove some welcome encouragement ahead of an uncertain summer transfer window.
Can spoke to Sky (via AFP) after their 1-0 win, discussing Sancho’s conduct after his reported €10,000 fine this week.
Sancho and teammate Manuel Akanji were fined by the German Football Association (DFL) on Friday after the pair had “apparently violated general hygiene and infection protection standards” put in place amid the COVID-19 outbreak by getting haircuts without masks at home. He was quoted as saying:
“Jadon is a great guy, but he needs to be a bit cleverer with certain things. Obviously everyone needs to get their hair cut sometimes, but he needs to be a bit more grown up. We need to guide Jadon a bit – he can’t afford to make mistakes like that in the future.
It doesn’t annoy us, but we know he has to be more disciplined with some things. I don’t think he does it on purpose to cause a scandal – maybe he just trusts people too much sometimes.”
Dortmund’s final four Bundesliga fixtures:
June 13: Fortuna Dusseldorf (16th)
June 17: Mainz (15th)
June 20: RB Leipzig (3rd)
June 27: Hoffenheim (6th)