When Germany’s Maxi Arnold lifted the U21-Cup into the air of Cracow, right next to him there was a little man from Gelsenkirchen – Max Meyer. After a bad season with Schalke that culminated into him announcing that he won’t be renewing his contract at Schalke. With his current deal running out in 2018, he has attracted interest from several clubs inside and outside of Germany. Time to take a look at who the young German is, what his strengths and weaknesses are.
There are players who will thrive when their team is not in the ball because they are so intelligent in their Pressing and positioning. There are players who are very good on the ball because they have been gifted with sublime technical abilities and last but not least there are the players who can do both. Meyer very much falls into the second category.
Fifteen or maybe twenty years ago Max Meyer would have been called a “Wühler”. That means that when you put him into a tight space with a bunch of opposition players he is likely to come out victorious.
These clips show Meyer’s impeccable first touch. On occasion, he is able to make the most out of the little space he is given. This and his relative lack of pace make him a player who is very well suited to a team that plays with a lot of possession opposed to a team that tries to play a more transition-oriented game like Schalke did last season. Their new coach Tedesco has hinted that he has a bigger focus on possession. A sensible thing to do considering the extra training sessions they will have without European Football and something that plays into Meyer’s strengths.
His dribbling which is one of the main reasons why earlier in the season he was often up against two opposition players once he had the ball. With him not being big or physically imposing in any way he has to find other ways to create space for himself and for his teammates. One of the ways to do that is to vacate his position.
Meyer usually starts through the middle of an Attacking Midfield trio but he does not occupy the 10 space a lot of time – at least when he is on the ball, drifting into the halfspaces to create space and put himself into a better position to play line-breaking passes. There is an obvious upside to that especially against teams with a more man-oriented marking scheme but it can also leave the 10 space unoccupied. Because Meyer does not have a very imposing figure, him occupying a space further forward with the Striker dropping in is often not an option so if he occupies central areas he often ends up as more of a second striker.
As a second striker or just an Attacking Midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, there are certain things that are required from you when it comes to playing when your team is not in possession. This touches on things like Pressing and compressing central space in a 4-4-2 defensive shape. Because of his physical stature and his lack of pace, this is one of the main weaknesses of his game. After a 3-0 loss in the DFB-Pokal to Bayern München, Schalke head coach Markus Weinzierl heavily criticized him for a lack of work rate and this might be the point where he decided not to renew his contract with Schalke.
This is also why he might not be the best option for some clubs that have been linked with him, the main one being Tottenham Hotspur where he would compete with Christian Eriksen (I’ll write something about him in the near future). Both are intelligent players with a good appreciation when their team is in possession but the difference between being linked with Barcelona and with Wolfsburg. Eriksen can lead the press and he is very good at blocking passing lanes and being aggressive at exactly the right time. Meyer does not really possess that ability and it’s part of the reason why he lost his place in Attacking Midfield to Leon Goretzka who is one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga when it comes to proactive defending phases.
When you watch Max Meyer on the ball for long enough, you won’t be too surprised that he grew up playing Futsal after every training session. Futsal is all about making the most out of small spaces so it is ideal for the technical development of players. Players who grew up playing Futsal alongside football include names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zinedine Zidane and Neymar. This also explains why some of Meyer’s best actions involve dribbling in tight spaces and quick One-Twos or One-Touch passes, explaining his average pass length of just 14 meters.
Playing Futsal not only developed his technical skill set, but also his mental skill set because in Futsal you always want to get rid of the ball and give it to a teammate as soon as it makes any sense. As a downside of that, Meyer is not very good when he has to cover long distances in possession.
Having this strength, Meyer would benefit a lot from more strength, especially since due to his abilities he has a tendency to always bind more than one player. Should he make the switch to a Premier League club, this is almost a requirement. Depending on the position he has to play next season, improving his passing range is also something that could become important.
All in all, Meyer is an interesting player who yields a big array of weapons when it comes to his technicality. But his physical frame and his pace don’t help him when his team does not have the ball. If Weinzierl’s accusations are true might show next season where he is either playing for Schalke under new manager Domenico Tedesco or for another club somewhere in Europe.