October 22, 2017

Max Meyer and Julian Draxler: Forever Intertwined

Ever since the DFB decided to revamp their youth development structure, a consistent stream of absolutely world-class talent has been produced. In that time few of world football’s top clubs have introduced academy talents into the first team as have FC Schalke 04. The rise of the likes of Leroy Sané, Max Meyer, Julian Draxler and Leon Goretzka has been met with great expectations for the potential of these young footballers.

Despite the many benefits of consistently producing a plethora of young talent, what also arises is a selection problem. Along with interest from other clubs and form issues the situation typically favours one of a kind in a particular position.

This was the situation very recently experienced at Bayern Munich where two Bayern young talents, Gianluca Gaudino and Pierre Emile Højbjerg, didn’t get the opportunity to flourish due to the signing of Joshua Kimmich, who played in the exact same position. Kimmich outperformed his teammates and as a result Gaudino and Højbjerg were subsequently loaned out.

At Schalke there was a similar selection dilemma over two potentially world-class #10s. Now 22-year-old Julian Draxler and 20-year-old Max Meyer both continued to demonstrate quality and composure well past the capabilities of their peers of similar age.

Before Meyer, Goretzka and Sané made the step up to the first team, Draxler had long been considered as the face of Schalke for years to come. Since his debut in the 2010/2011 season, Julian’s fluid style of play and excellent performances quickly made him a fan favourite and a transfer target for many of Europe’s top clubs.

Draxler scored an important goal in the Quarter-final the DFB Pokal against Nürnberg in the dying seconds to give Schalke the 3-2 win. He then scored a sensational volley in the final against MSV Duisburg to open the scoring the Royal Blues Pokal final triumph.

The following season the Gladbeck native featured in 30 league games, helping Schalke finish in 3rd place. Draxler primarily used to feature as a wide midfield player to accommodate Lewis Holtby. Due to his resounding performances, when Schalke offloaded Holtby, rather than signing a replacement Julian was promoted to his preferred central attacking midfield position.

Starting late in 2014, Draxler experienced a series of lengthy injuries which kept him out of action for long spells. In his absence, young stalwart Max Meyer was given the opportunity to prove his worth.

The diminutive midfielder impressed in a number of marquee matchups in his first season with the Schalke’s senior squad. Most notably he came off the bench to score against Borussia Dortmund in the Revierderby. Meyer then delivered a memorable performance against Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League which gained attention from many other clubs.

Further in Draxler’s absence, Meyer and compatriot Sané set the Santiago Bernabeu alight in Schalke’s profound 4-3 victory against Real Madrid in the Champions League. Despite Schalke losing 5-4 on aggregate Meyer created an abundance of chances and was a constant threat in their second leg win.

The Gelsenkirchen club were faced with an enormous decision regarding the futures of their two coveted midfielders. Both were long-time members of the S04 family — Meyer had joined the club as a 14-year-old while Draxler had joined at the age of eight.

Schalke knew that in order to keep both prestigious talents, one would earnthe faith of the manager and board and thus enjoy the limelight of being a regular starter while the other, despite being a Schalke product, would simply need regular starting time. With growing interest from other clubs, holding on to both players became less and less likely.

Both players are crafty #10s yet their qualities differ slightly. Meyer is more dynamic of a 1v1 dribbler and more heavily involved in combination play. Draxler’s career statistics show that he is more decisive than Meyer and he has a considerable advantage in picking out a final pass and a knack for scoring goals. Where Draxler at times can be lazy defensively, Meyer actively and enthusiastically presses well in the final third.

Ultimately, Draxler’s injury woes saw Meyer being preferred by manager at the time Roberto Di Matteo. After the Italian’s resignation and the appointment of André Breitenreiter, Draxler featured less and less for die Königsblauen.

The summer transfer window saw Schalke reject a bid from Juventus before selling Draxler to Wolfsburg, two months after Breitenreiter took charge.

Draxler’s first half of the season with the Wolves has been somewhat underwhelming, with flashes of brilliance which has been representative of his overall style of play as of late. Though Draxler’s raw statistics are very similar to Meyer’s this could be due to the variance in player types. Julian’s naturally direct playing style allows him to collect goals and assists despite not playing considerably well.

So far in the 2015/2016 season Draxler has scored four goals and provided five assists in 23 appearances in all competitions for Wolfsburg.  Meyer has scored four goals with six assists in 26 appearances for Schalke.

Both players have created 21 chances in the Bundesliga while Draxler has featured in five less games. Meyer has an 85% average passing accuracy while Draxler’s passing accuracy is 82%. Meyer has had an average shot accuracy of 83% while Draxler’s is a lowly 47% on target. This statistic isn’t skewed by shot volume as Draxler only took one more shot.

Statistics hardly paint the picture when it comes down to comparing attacking midfielders, as they are very illusive in nature. Their tendencies typically permit them to fade in and out of games and then appear in critical moments to deliver decisive passes or unlock a backline.

Meyer and Draxler’s futures will be undoubtedly be compared for years to come. Yet the simple fact of the matter is that they are both young, promising talents with the better part of their careers ahead of them. They will always compete for the role of Mesut Özil’s understudy in the German national team and eventually seek to be the nation’s future. Both players are extremely talented and have world-class potential. For the sake of quality in football, fans can only hope both continue to flourish.

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Navid is a 19 year old Bayern Munich supporter born in Frankfurt, Germany. Currently resides in Toronto, Canada and plays for Niagara University in the NCAA Division 1. You can follow him on Twitter @Navidr9