Roy Hodgson likens Max Meyer to N'Golo Kante and Lucas Torreira but will he unleash him against Southampton?

Meyer made a difference after coming off the bench against Watford: REUTERS
Meyer made a difference after coming off the bench against Watford: REUTERS

Max Meyer may still be waiting for his first Premier League start since joining Crystal Palace but the German international is already making an impression on Roy Hodgson. It cannot be long before he gets to prove what he can do to the rest of the top flight.

“He can play across the midfield and he is similar to a lot of players coming into the game at the top level, with [N’Golo] Kante, [Lucas] Torreira and [Naby] Keita,” the Palace boss said before Sunday’s loss at Vicarage Road.

That fulsome praise made it all the more remarkable that Meyer was left to watch on forlornly as Palace’s two man midfield of James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic lost control of the centre ground to Watford’s more robust Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue, typified when the latter burst beyond both Eagles before teeing up Roberto Pereyra for the opening goal.

McArthur and Milivojevic had been impressive as Palace dictated the tempo in the early exchanges but the dynamic, vertical playing style of the Scot, which had led to two chances in the first half, took its toll in the driving rain.

Hodgson needed a midfielder to get a handle on the game, not to chase it around. Last season he had exactly that in Yohan Cabaye, now enjoying a gilded pre-retirement in the UAE with Al Nasr.

Under Hodgson Cabaye enjoyed his finest performances in his three-year spell at Selhurst Park, forming an elegant partnership with Milivojevic.

His loss was a blow, but one that was significantly eased by the acquisition of Meyer, who had similarly reinvented himself from an advanced playmaker into a regista, making Schalke tick from deep positions last season.

When he introduced Meyer for Jeffrey Schlupp, Palace’s ability to dictate the tempo was restored. The 22-year-old was at the heart of the visitors’ best chances, laying on a smart assist for Wilfried Zaha’s equaliser. It was hard not to suspect the Eagles may have got at least a point had their summer addition had more than 15 minutes to change the course of the game.

In their ability to impose “real quality” in central areas and “manipulate the ball” McArthur sees growing similarities between Meyer and Palace’s previous No.7 Cabaye.

Not that McArthur is shirking from the challenge posed by the summer signing. Indeed he offered a glowing assessment of Meyer’s qualities.

“The first couple of sessions after he came in he was gradually getting better and better,” he said. “Now he’s feeling stronger and fitter and you can see that in his performances.

“When he came on he added that quality that we needed. For such a small player as well he knows how to manipulate the ball and be strong on it.”

Meanwhile Andros Townsend insists it is not only Meyer who is putting pressure on Hodgson’s incumbent XI.

He told Standard Sport: “Max is a fantastic player, we’ve seen in training already him, Cheki [Kouyate] and Jordan [Ayew] have fitted in quite well. I’m sure they’ll come in at some stage but the 11 who are in the team at the moment, we’re all playing well.

“Yes in the last two games we’ve not got the result we wanted but everyone’s playing well and it’s great for them to keep us on our toes. The competition in the squad will bring the best out of us.”

Townsend is right to point out that McArthur and Milivojevic have not let anyone down in Palace’s opening trio of games. But as the visit of Southampton to Selhurst Park brings with it a reasonably promising run of fixtures, the sort of games where the guile of Meyer could be indispensable. Hodgson ought not to delay his introduction as he did last week.