20th October 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Despite playing in an unfamiliar position at the base of midfield, Max Meyer encouragingly adapted superbly to his role in Schalke's resounding 2-0 win over Hertha Berlin.
Normally deployed as an attacking midfielder, the diminutive 22-year-old produced a classy performance in his new position, as he was especially crucial in animating his team's offensive passages from deep.
Seeing as Hertha defended in their 4-4-2 formation, Meyer was crucial in ensuring his wide splitting three central defenders, Benjamin Stambouli, Naldo and Thilo Kehrer, had huge openings in the half spaces to dribble forward into midfield. With Meyer regularly being man marked by his opponent, Ondrej Duda, meaning he couldn't always viably receive possession, Meyer used this to his advantage to draw his opponent with him and away from said areas to manufacture clear space for his aforementioned defenders to exploit.
There were, however, plenty of instances when the German starlet used his nifty movement to find space to inherit possession on his own. By pushing into either half space, he found himself a more advantageous route to get on the ball, with Duda often unwilling to follow him into these areas of the pitch. This subsequently provided a fine platform for Meyer to use his incisive passing ability and wicked dribbling skills in a less congested area of the pitch. On top of embarking on some typically dangerous dribbles, his penetrative, vertical passing into the likes of Leon Goretzka, Amine Harit, Guido Burgstaller and Franco Di Santo was also extremely useful.
In addition, the way he and fellow young gun, Goretzka, would subtly switch positions every now and then was another positive aspect of his showing, and one that added an extra layer of unpredictability for Pal Dardai's troops to deal with. His lateral supporting movements to ensure Die Knappen's wide players had a close outlet to use in case they couldn't progress forward was also vital for Domenico Tedesco's Schalke team.
While he found himself caught out of position at times on the defensive end, his stopping exertions were largely sound, with his job tracking Duda particularly influential.
"I'd never played in this position in the Bundesliga before but I enjoy it as I get lots of touches on the ball. As a defensive midfielder, you have a lot of 50-50s and have to be aggressive", explained Meyer in his post match comments. "The head coach simply trusted me."
Tedesco then proclaimed he thought Meyer did a "very, very good job" in his new slot. The player himself was just delighted he could repay the faith of his manager for opting to play him as a defensive midfielder, saying: "He gave me the confidence to let me play alone in this position, and I like it because I have many ball contacts and can try to open the game. I enjoyed the new role."
Moreover, his strong body of work, that further underlined his quality and versatility, would've definitely impressed the many clubs interested in signing him, who include Barcelona, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. Jurgen Klopp's high octane Reds outfit appear to lead the chase for the highly coveted prospect, however, with reports suggesting the club are keen to secure him in a deal worth a reasonable £17 million. If he were to join Liverpool, the fit would seem ideal despite the heavy competition for places, as he'd relish the opportunity to develop his craft under the expert tutelage of his countryman in Klopp.
Upon hearing comments from Meyer in the summer that he intends to leave on a free next summer, following the last 18 months not going entirely to plan, and had no interest in signing a new deal, it'll be fascinating to see what his future holds. Gaining valuable minutes and putting in such immense contributions might be enough to make him reconsider, but it appears his heart is set on a move away, which would represent a massive loss for the Royal Blues.
Working under new manager, Tedesco, who's made an extremely promising start to life in Gelsinkirchen, which sees the club sit fifth in the league, should serve Meyer with another essential learning experience to improve himself for now, though.
Whether he continues in his new holding midfield station or not remains to be seen. But one thing's for sure is that following his situation will be of huge interest to many of European football's biggest clubs.
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Schalke's Max Meyer is Arousing Interest around Europe
20th October 2017. By Edward Stratmann.