The summer transfer window will always be a period filled with joy, frustration and pure speculation. At no other point during the entirety of the entire football season do fans endlessly debate on matters pertaining to the club they support, what direction they should be taking, and who can be brought in to achieve their individual aims. The Premier League, however, is another animal in of itself.
With seemingly endless funding pouring onto English shores year on year, even Premier League minnows have a chance to splash the cash unseen in any other league in Europe; this summer has proven no different. With big money moves for global super stars always being touted, it’s been the business shown in other sections of the table that have turned the most heads.
With shock deals for high-profile players such as Jean Michaël Seri, André Schürrle, João Moutinho, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Jack Wilshere and Felipe Anderson, the likes of Fulham, Wolves, Brighton, and West Ham have all turned heads with some brilliant summer business. Adding their name to the list was Crystal Palace when they signed German-international Max Meyer on a free transfer.
Meyer has been on the lips of many for quite sometime despite still only being 22-years-old. Since joining Knappenschmiede (Schalke’s youth academy) in 2009 after stints with hometown youth-sides FC Sardegna Oberhausen Jugend and Rot-Weiß Oberhausen Jugend, as well as MSV Duisburg Jugend, the diminutive attacking-midfielder rose prominently through the youth ranks in Gelsenkirchen and for the national team. Making his full debut for Die Königsblauen at the age of 17 in 2013, the sky was the limit for a player who was touted as one of the best young players the country had to offer. Fast-forward to 2018 however, and the fairy tale never materialised in the way so many hoped it would.
Some may say that a move from one of the biggest clubs in Germany to one of the smallest clubs in London is a massive downgrade for a player who – still – has enormous potential, but sometimes flying under the radar is exactly what a player needs to reignite a career that has failed to live up to its billing.
In pure terms of ability, Meyer has the ingredients to succeed in the Premier League. Though he may be slight in stature (he tops out a shade under 5’7), he makes up for it with technical prowess, the ability to control play, and an ever-growing sense of how to read the game in front of him. Whether if it was pure luck or a stroke of genius, first-year manager Domenico Tedesco’s shifting Meyer into a deeper central role brought out the best of him in what was arguably his finest season in a royal blue during the 2017/18 campaign.
Though he seems to have found a period of resurgence, questions will – and must be – asked as to if he will fit into Roy Hodgson’s tactical schemes at Selhurst Park; a reference to Sani Cazorla’s role-change in the north end of town is a prime example of how Meyer must be used if Palace are to serve as a platform for continued growth. For Tedesco he pressed well (albeit in a pressing system) and was excellent at intercepting play and winning the ball back when not in possession. When on the ball he took to the role as a deep controller quite well, completing a little less than 90% of his passes over the course of the league campaign. But with strengths come weaknesses, particularly his non-existent aerial ability and a penchant for leaving space behind him when he does press.
A potential ace up Hodgson’s sleeve can be found in the form of fellow new signing and former West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté. A physical presence in the center of the park and an accomplished ball-winner astute at sitting deep and shielding the back-four, a potential partnership with Meyer could bear fruit for The Eagles. With a more defensive-minded partner alongside him, Meyer’s positive traits could be accentuated more effectively.
This is not a story foreign to fans of both the Bundesliga and the Premier League. Another former Schalke youth standout in Lewis Holtby went through the same transformation, after showing much promise in Germany but categorically failing during his time in London with Tottenham and Fulham respectively. Holtby went on to improve his level of performance for Hamburger SV in a deeper role, but ultimately his career can certainly be filed under “what could have been.”
In Max Meyer’s case, there is still plenty of time to make good on both promise and ability shown, but it remains to be seen if South London will be the location of his second coming-out party.
By Andrew Thompson.