Max Meyer was given a standing ovation when coming off the pitch in the latter stages of Saturday’s 2-0 win over Burnley, having put in a performance that saw him rightly crowned Man of the Match soon after.
The German raised eyebrows when he chose to move to Crystal Palace after seeing his contract with Schalke expire but after a patchy start to life in SE25, the 23-year-old now looks a perfect fit in the Eagles’ midfield, offering us all hope of a period of form good enough to see us moving clear of any relegation trouble.
Last weekend’s victory over the struggling Clarets was a truly dominant display from Roy Hodgson’s men but I doubt it would have been anything like the same, had Meyer not been operating in the centre of the park. Having played there and flourished away to Manchester United in the previous round of fixtures, there was never any doubt over him keeping his place for the visit of Sean Dyche and co. with his link-up play between midfield and attack proving to be far more than the away side could cope with.
You can tell that the likes of Zaha and Townsend trust Meyer implicitly whenever he gets the ball at his feet, creating counter-attacks that enable us to play our best football as a unit. All too often in the early weeks of the campaign, our build-up play looked ponderous and lacking in fluidity but with Max being allowed to pull the strings in the middle, Palace look an infinitely more testing prospect for the opposition.
On paper, Saturday’s starting line-up had the feel of a standard 4-4-2 with Zaha and Townsend operating as out-and-out frontmen but in reality, the pair drift readily in and out of position, often holding the role of an inside forward after driving inside from either flank. Given defenders’ reluctance to commit fully to man marking either one, spaces appear with the likes of McArthur and Meyer exploiting them by making forward runs to support Andros and Wilf. Against sides who offer up space, it tends to work a treat, with Saturday acting as the perfect blueprint.
You don’t need me to remind you of the massive game against Brighton which is now looming large on the horizon, Hodgson and his players have the chance to make it seven points out of a possible nine in the space of just ten days. Can they do it? With Meyer in the XI, I wouldn’t write us off.