With the transfer of Andre Schurrle for £18 million now official we can analyse his statistics and the role he is likely to play, and compare those with the players that he will be competing with at Chelsea.
Despite the Schurrle transfer saga beginning long before Mourinho’s appointment, it still looks like this is a signing that he wanted. Chelsea’s pursuit of Schurrle after his appointment didn’t change, and from what Schurrle has had to say it sounds like Mourinho wanted him.
[quote]”I first met Jose Mourinho at Michael Ballack’s farewell game in Leipzig last week. He was in charge of my team, the World Select side. We met before the game, he shook my hand and told me ‘Everything has gone through, and you are my player’. That was a wonderful feeling.”[/quote]
Perhaps there is a good reason beyond the quality of the player that Mourinho and Chelsea wanted him. Schurrle’s predominant position with Bayer Leverkusen was as an attacking left sided midfielder. In 39 starts in all competitions last season, 36 of those came there, with one in the centre and one as a striker.
Let’s clarify where he is likely to play at Chelsea. He was purchased as a wide attacking midfielder, and that is where Mourinho will want to play him. You don’t buy a player who has played more or less the whole of a season in one position and then play him somewhere else; we’ve all seen how that worked out for Kagawa. Some have claimed that he can play up front, and indeed he has played there in his career, but don’t expect Chelsea to rely on this. The only way he is likely to be playing as a centre forward is if all of Chelsea’s natural strikers simultaneously get injured (unlikely). The same things were said about the likes of Kalou and Moses, but nothing ever came of it.
The positions of Hazard, Mata and Oscar were fairly nailed on last season, in that they usually played on the left, middle and right respectively. Schurrle’s natural position is on the left and so his most direct competition will be with Hazard. Is it likely that he will take Hazard’s place in the team? Intuitively it seems unlikely, but we’ll get to the stats. Even if he is unlikely to make that position consistently his own, having him in the squad opens up new possibilities. If Hazard needs a rest then Schurrle exists as a ready-made replacement, and if either Oscar or Mata need a rest, then Hazard can move into these roles (as he has shown he is capable of) and Schurrle can once again slip into the left-sided position. There is also the fact that players get injured, and furthermore that Schurrle is very much a ‘Mourinho-kind-of-player’ – a hard worker who presses the opposition and who fulfils his duties tracking back.
Even if Hazard, Mata and Oscar remain the first choices, expect Schurrle to feature regularly in the starting line-up. Chelsea struggled for cover across the front three at times last season, but now they will have that. Indeed they had Moses and Marin, but Marin was largely injured and out of form and Schurrle will add more quality in depth. You can question whether it is worth spending £18 million on ‘cover’ but just because he might be fourth choice does not mean he won’t play a great deal.
During 34 starts in the league season, Schurrle scored 11 goals and managed 7 assists. It’s not a bad total at all and he is reasonably balanced between the two. Were he a right-sided player then you might expect those stats to reverse themselves, as his game would be more about providing balls into the box, but as an inverted left attacking midfielder he prefers to cut in onto his stronger foot for the shot.
It’s not surprising that he scored that many goals either since he averaged 3.6 shots per match. He also managed 3.2 successful dribbles per match (from 109 in total attempted) which is also an unusually high stat. When you further consider the fact that he only averaged 0.5 successful crosses per game you begin to find a great deal of support for him being the direct, goal-orientated player that he is.
Having established this and how he is likely to be utilised, it’s time to compare him to what will be his competition in the squad. This competition exists in the form of Hazard, Oscar, Moses and Marin. When Mata is on the pitch it is always the central attacking position that belongs to him, with other players moving to accommodate this if necessary, and so I won’t include him in the comparisons. Nor will I include Marin because he really didn’t play enough for anyone to take much from the stats.
In terms of being directly involved in goals, Schurrle and Hazard are very similar. Instead of having more goals than assists though, Hazard has 9 goals and 11 assists. Schurrle may have scored more, but Hazard was directly involved in 20 goals, 2 more than Schurrle.
The stats indicate the Hazard is more of a team player when he is on the ball. Hazard may not have scored as many goals as Schurrle, but this is because he doesn’t go for goal anywhere near as much. Hazard shot 1.9 times per game in the Premier League last season, and further only averaged 1.8 successful dribbles per match (from a total of 62 over the year). Rather than shooting and running with the ball at his feet, he prefers to play the passing game and set up the rest of his team.
In terms of creativity, Hazard’s pass success is 85% from an average of 45 passes per game, compared to Schurrle’s 78% from 27 passes per game. Unsurprisingly this led to the Chelsea man giving 1.9 key passes per game, higher than Schurrle’s 1.2. Hazard (18/112) also attempted far, far more crosses than Schurrle (16/58) although they both have the same 0.5 completed crosses per match.
Ultimately, Schurrle was more direct and has more goals to show for it. The same can be said with Hazard in terms of passing and creativity, which is why he has 4 more assists than Schurrle. All this builds an interesting picture as to why Chelsea may have purchased the German. He might seem like a similar player to Hazard at first glance, but in fact they are very different players. Nobody is more famous for making astute tactical changes than Mourinho, and whatever you think about Schurrle, he certainly offers something new to the team.
It’s harder to directly compare Moses with Schurrle because he only started 12 games in the league (although he did make 11 appearances off the bench) and because he regularly started on the right of the attacking three as well as on the left.
Moses’ stats are far less impressive nonetheless. Over those games in the league he only scored 1 goal and assisted once too. His totals are obviously curtailed somewhat by the fact that he had many less minutes on the pitch, but he still shot less on average (1.1 times per match) and dribbled less (0.7 per match).
His pass accuracy was 81% though, higher than Schurrle, from average of 18 attempted. He also managed to make 1 key pass per game which isn’t too bad considering how many less minutes he played. Schurrle only made 1.2 per game with far more opportunity.
Just as playing fewer games lowered his overall totals, the fact that he was a substitute in many appearances means that his averaged stats will also be lower (since an extra game will be added to the average without adding the same amount of minutes played that you would get with a start). Despite this though, it is clear to see why Moses was largely a squad player over 2012/13.
A comparison with Eden Hazard was the most interesting assessment because Schurrle and Hazard have the same primary position. Oscar had a far more flexible role within the squad though. It’s true that he was used most of all on the right, but he also played a fair number of games on the left and through the centre when Hazard and Mata were injured.
Oscar’s stats are similar to Hazard in the way that he favoured passing build-up play more than the direct approach of Schurrle. He too had 34 appearances in the league, of which 24 were starts. With these minutes he scored 4 goals and got 5 assists.
He averaged 40 passes per match, of which 1.4 were key passes, with a pass accuracy of 83% – similar to, and not far from Hazard. Indeed the same can be said about his shooting and dribbling, since on average he shot 1.8 times per game and made 1.1 successful dribbles.
The same trend appears again: Chelsea’s wide attackers play a completely different kind of game to Schurrle. Whether or not you think Schurrle is a player that Chelsea need, regardless of whether you think he will be good enough to succeed, you can’t deny that he is a different kind of attacker entirely. The only thing similar about Schurrle and these three is the position that they play. In reality Schurrle is far more direct and goal-orientate than any of Hazard, Moses or Oscar. Perhaps Chelsea picked up on this when trying to sign him. It would certainly make sense since they aren’t exactly short of attacking midfielders.
All I would say is: expect Schurrle to play, and expect him to bring something different to the table. That is what Mourinho is likely to appreciate about him, and that is the main reason why I foresee him having a bigger role to play at Stamford Bridge than you might think next season.
Schurrle stats via Whoscored.com
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