I've gone back and forth on whether or not Andre Schürrle would be a good fit for this Chelsea team for months. Now that the Blues have reached an agreement with Bayer Leverkusen over his signing, I thought it would be a good idea to look over my internal monologue for that span and then come to something approximating a conclusion. What are the pros and cons to having him on the team?
Cons first: Schürrle comes with a cost. There's both a raw one in terms of his financial fair play hit and an opportunity cost in terms of playing time for everyone else. The Blues can only fit in so many attacking types, and many of them are good enough that they warrant serious time. Schürrle will be battling five other very good players in Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses* and Kevin de Bruyne for time in three slots, and that's probably not in their best interests.
*Moses is currently suffering from what-have-you-done-for-me-lately syndrome, but he was very, very good in the first half of the season and one of only a handful of players who came out of the late autumn lolfest looking as though they were real live footballers.
He's also accused of being overrated. He definitely has his share of weaknesses, and when he's having an off day it can be pretty tough to watch him. His touch lets him down at times, especially when he's tired. He's not a flashy player in the mould of a Hazard or a Mata (or even a de Bruyne or an Oscar, to be honest), and when you compare his play on the ball to that Chelsea quartet, he comes off looking significantly worse.
Those downsides look damning, but in truth there are several mitigating factors. A transfer fee of around €23 million sounds expensive, but since Schürrle will sign a five-year deal, that ends up being €4.6 million plus wages -- which won't be particularly high. Combine that with his age, and suddenly the deal looks very reasonable, assuming he's good enough to play for Chelsea.
And he is. While he's not as good in possession (he's still very good, mind) as the likes of Mata, most of football is played off the ball. His attacking runs are more direct, and combined with his build will give the team more to throw at open-play crosses. His defending is also much better than any of Chelsea's current attackers. He's responsible, fast and has the strength to actually deal with opponents when he catches them.
His versatility is also a major plus. While I don't want to see him start as a centre forward, he's definitely capable of switching into that position mid-game as a different look for the opposition. Suddenly a three-man interchange becomes four, and Chelsea become much harder to predict.
There will be situations next season when playing Schürrle is the best option to break down an opposing defence. There will also be times when his presence is needed to contain an opposing fullback. If Jose Mourinho decides he's the best man for the job in any given situation, despite Schürrle depriving someone else of playing time the only conclusion one can sensibly come to is that it's probably a good thing that he's on the squad.
Offering a different look is thing, and although Schürrle might never thrill like Hazard or Oscar, he's an elite talent who gives us another mechanism by which to open up defences. If he busts, Chelsea will be able to recoup a significant fraction of the monetary investment, and poor performances from Schürrle would mean he wouldn't disrupt everyone else's playing time.
Schürrle doesn't even begin to address the team's biggest problems, however. If we get to the end of summer and the midfield's still a mess, this buy suddenly looks incredibly stupid. But there's plenty of transfer season left to go, and right now I have no complaints.