Chelsea’s Monday night clash with Manchester United signified the first competitive start of Andre Schurrle’s Blues career, being rather surprisingly deployed as a lone striker. The Germany international jumped ship to West London from Bayer Leverkusen earlier in the summer, at a cost of £18million, but with Jose Mourinho adding the not-too-dissimilar and twice as expense Brazilian starlet Willian to his roster to the detriment of Tottenham Hotspur, how much game time will Schurrle actually receive this season? Have we witnessed the second coming of Marko Marin?
For those of you unfamiliar with Marko Marin, he comes with a number of superficial similarities with Chelsea’s £18million signing. Like Schurrle, Marin is a Germany international, albeit on a more part-time basis, sourced from the growing-in-popularity Bundesliga last summer, for a more modest £6million fee. The 24 year old is just two years senior to his German team-mate, and both play primarily anywhere along the attacking midfield berth.
But things didn’t work out too well for Marin since his Premier League switch a year ago. Regular bouts on the sidelines didn’t help the winger’s cause, but due to the intense competition for places on either flank with Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar and Victor Moses, he managed just six Premier League outings last term, the same total as boo-boy not-so-supersub Yossi Benayoun.
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So it’s safe to say Marin didn’t hit the ground running at Stamford Bridge, and the chances of him reigniting his Chelsea career seem less likely than ever now that he’s been sent packing on a season-long loan to Sevilla, with Schurrle arriving this summer as an almost direct replacement.
But will Schurrle suffer a similar fate to Marin, with his Chelsea tenure ending before it’s even begun, now that Jose Mourinho has the lavishly expensive Willian at his disposal? Or will the winger-forward buck the template set out by his German predecessor and be a success in West London?
Schurrle’s initial concern will be that officially at least, he was not a Mourinho signing. The German turned up at Stamford Bridge before the Portuguese announced he was returning to West London as the ‘happy one’, and although he most likely had some say in the Blues incomings and outgoings of personnel before any appointment was officially made, it doesn’t change the fact that Schurrle was never a transfer target of Mourinho’s, rather of the club’s transfer department.
And those worries will no doubt be heightened by the recent arrival of Willian, to the cost of £32million. It gazumps Schurrle’s fee to prize him away from Leverkusen substantially, and although Jose Mourinho isn’t the kind of manager to let material values of players stand in the way of his squad selection, the fact that one cost nearly twice the price of the other, and that the cheaper wasn’t even a signing of his personal preference, must have some effect when the Chelsea boss is considering who to put on his substitutes bench.
Similarly, from what we’ve seen from Chelsea’s philosophy under Mourinho so far this season, it’s hard to imagine where Schurrle fits in on a long-term basis. Rather than replicating Chelsea’s traditional ethos under the Portuguese with a sturdy 4-3-3 formation, the majority of the Blues’ forward play has gone through a central hub of attacking talent, with Oscar, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne dictating play. They all possess a vital emphasis on passing and movement that the German does not, and the wide left slot, Schurrle’s natural position, is more tucked in than the winger-forward would prefer.
Although like any player, the 22 year old is adaptable, and of a young enough age to modify his game substantially, he’s still some way behind his midfield counter-parts if Mourinho is looking for passers and creators, such as Hazard, Oscar, Mata, De Bruyne and Frank Lampard, in addition to new signing Willian.
That being said, Schurrle does offer the Chelsea roster something that others can’t in his natural width. By trade, the Germany international is an inside forward, but he is more than capable of hugging the touchline and making the pitch as wide as possible. Eden Hazard and Juan Mata both prefer to cut in whenever possible, and Schurrle too, but his natural pace and technique would make him more than capable of being an effective top flight winger.
Mourinho hasn’t mixed up Chelsea’s style of play too much as of yet in his opening three league fixtures, but there will be a point in the season, against select opponents, where greater emphasis is put on the flanks, and Schurrle is the most likely candidate to aid the Portuguese on such an occasion.
Additionally, the 22 year old has always found goals throughout his career, with his Bundesliga record from spells with Mainz and Leverkusen standing at 38 goals in 131 outings. His offside strike that hit the bar against Manchester United on Monday night illustrated the epitome of Schurrle’s utility; his ability to find the net from long range via his exceptional technique despite often having little space to work in. The winger-forward’s knack of finding the net could turn the occasional draw into a win for the Blues, and it also gifts him a decent chance of being a regular on the Blues bench for his ability to change the game, or at least the score line, through relatively little opportunity.
And admittedly, the comparisons with Marco Marin are a tad unfair. Superficial commonalities are aplenty, but it’s quite clear that Schurrle possesses far greater quality and potential than his fellow German. Marin never settled at Stamford Bridge and immediately looked out of place, but even his Bundesliga record was vastly underwhelming in comparison to Schurrle.
But overall, it’s hard to see quite where Schurrle fits in to the master plan. It’s quite clear the Old Trafford experiment won’t be replicated in the near future considering it’s limited success, and the Blues have a wealth of bodies in midfield, that all seem to suit Mourinho’s new methodology of play in a more natural sense than the winger-forward.
To suggest he’ll become the next Marco Marin however might be a step too far. Unlike the Sevilla loanee, Schurrle comes with a preceding reputation and great quality, and in his pace, natural width and long-range shooting, offers something different and a more direct approach than the likes of Hazard, Mata and De Bruyne.
But even so, if it’s directness Mourinho is looking for, he’ll undoubtedly turn to a £32million purchase of his own choosing, rather than the German, and if Schurrle wants to feature heavily this term he’ll need to show his quality sooner rather than later, having not yet produced the goods in his three outings so far this season.
Will Andre Schurrle become the next Marco Marin?
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