After what seems like eons of back and forth negotiations, Andre Schürrle finally made his move to Chelsea official this week. The Bayer Leverkusen attacker joins the London club on a five-year contract in a deal reportedly worth 23 million Euros.
Chelsea were linked with Schürrle as far back as the summer of 2012. And for a while it looked as though the return of Jose Mourinho along with the club’s decision not to sell or loan out Belgian attacker Kevin de Bruyne would derail the deal, but both Leverkusen and Chelsea agreed to terms this week and finalized one of German football’s most drawn out transfers.
Schürrle is coming off one of his best, if not the best, season of his career with Leverkusen. The 22-year-old versatile attacker played a significant role in Leverkusen’s impressive third place finish and was one of the league’s standout players. Schürrle scored a combined 14 goals and assisted another 10 in all competitions for the club and together with Stefan Kiessling, formed one of the league’s most dangerous striker pairings.
So what kind of player is Schürrle exactly and what can Chelsea supporters expect from the player? For one, Schürrle is one of German football’s most versatile players, and although he is at his best cutting in from the left to utilize his strong right foot, he is equally adept out on the right or playing as the team’s striker.
In fact, his best goal output was during his time with Mainz in the 2011-12 season in which he scored 15 goals in the league. Thomas Tuchel’s tendency to continuously experiment tactically ensured that Schürrle played a multitude of roles at Mainz which he admitted played a big role in his development as a player.
Schürrle played as a left wing forward in a 4-2-3-1 as well as a support striker role in a 4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2 system. On rare occasions, Schürrle even lead the line when Tuchel opted for a 4-4-2 diamond. His pace and acceleration on the ball made him an ideal fit for Tuchel’s high pressing and quick transition system.
Regardless of where he played, Schürrle had a breakout year that season and was quickly rewarded by Joachim Löw with a call up to the national team. There Schürrle immediately made an impact and became Germany’s biggest offensive weapon off the bench. He scored five goals in his first 10 appearances. Four of those came off the bench and against opponents like Uruguay and Brazil.
Part of the reason Schürrle succeeded under Tuchel at Mainz, and under Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski at Leverkusen this past season is because both setups catered to his strengths as a player. As mentioned previously, his pace and acceleration are ideal for teams that press high up the pitch and recover the ball quickly and immediately transition into attacks.
Leverkusen became one of the league’s most lethal counter attacking sides with Schürrle initiating counter attack after counterattack. With space opening up when opponents stepped up Schürrle used his speed to beat players, get behind defenders and utilize his strong shot. A trademark Schürrle move usually includes an accelerating run down the left flank before cutting inside and releasing a shot from outside the area. He had 50 shots outside the 18-yard box this season.
Schürrle may just be German football’s best long distance shooter. This season he had more shots hit the post than any other player in the league. He had a total 128 attempts on goal in the league this season and 52 on target and his shooting accuracy (57%) was also one of the highest in his position.
But Schürrle is not just an outlet for goals. He has turned into a major creator of chances. In the Bundesliga alone, Schürrle directly created 40 scoring chances for his teammates, an impressive figure for a player as advanced as Schürrle. Overall, he was involved in 186 attempts throughout the season in the league.
Schürrle is not just a threat in front of goal but also highly effective off the ball. He had a total of 46 interceptions this season with Leverkusen in the league and always ranked amongst players with the highest duels contested and won figures.
He contested nearly 600 duels in the Bundesliga. Only seven strikers managed more this season and his duels won percentage (43) is one of the highest in his position. Of those duels, 543 came on the ground which tells you that Schürrle is not as active in the air amongst his peers but more involved in challenging for the ball and recovering than most.
It may be also why Mourinho decided to bring over Schürrle after all because he has always preferred his attackers to be the first line of defense, whether at Porto, his first spell with Chelsea, Inter Milan or Real Madrid. The defensive aspect of his game in any case is something that should work in his favor in contrast to players like Eden Hazard or Oscar who are still improving that aspect of their game.
In any case, it will be interesting to see how Mourinho plans with Schürrle. In him, he has a player at his disposal who can fill multiple roles and positions and one that will seamlessly adapt to the defensive elements of his system. How he will figure in alongside talents like Hazard, Mata and Oscar remains to be seen but don’t expect Schürrle to suffer the same fate Marko Marin did when he joined last year.