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What Andre Schurrle brings to this Chelsea side

Richard Heathcote

Quite remarkably, probably given Chelsea's glut of attacking midfielders, the 20 million pound signing of Andre Schurrle near the start of the summer went somewhat under the radar. This was also probably a consequence of the protracted nature of his transfer, considering that he had been on the club's radar for over a year and been the subject of a bid the previous summer. "I always hoped this move would happen," said Schürrle. "It took a long time, and I'd wanted to come last year to Chelsea and it hadn't worked out."

Now, though, the wait is over for the German international, although he might find first team chances difficult to come by with Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Victor Moses all challenging for places in his favoured position on the flanks.

At Bayer Leverkusen, Schurrle thrived in a free role on the left, often staying high up the pitch - Lars Bender, the left-sided central midfielder in a 4-3-2-1 formation, intelligently covered in behind so that the Leverkusen left-back wasn't left unprotected - and acting as the outlet for rapid counter-attacks. Leverkusen were the most reactive of Europe's ‘top' clubs last season, averaging the least possession of any side that finished in the top four of the five major leagues, but their system got the best out of their thrillingly direct players - both Kiessling and Schurrle racked up the goals.

The attacking nature of his role last season disguised the fact that Schurrle is a defensively diligent player, and can play a disciplined, tracking role that has normally been performed at Chelsea by players like Ramires and Ryan Bertrand. However, the bonus with Schurrle is that he offers an additional goal threat with his pace in behind - Mourinho could ask him to track an opposition full-back deep into his own half, and then, when Chelsea win the ball, ask his players to straightaway play passes into space down the left flank: there's a fair chance Schurrle would collect the ball at speed, having sprung forward from his defensive duties, and cut inside towards goal.

Schurrle is very much a wide forward than a classic winger, the distinguishing factor being his obvious - and statistically corroborated - tendency to shoot rather than cross. His arrival was all about options: having had to rely on the Oscar-Mata-Hazard triumvirate far too much in the 2012-13 season, he provided refreshing depth in the attacking positions, and furthermore, he offers something very different to the aforementioned trio.

That much has been obvious in his two games for the club, both coming from the bench (and intriguingly, around the same minute in both games). Against Hull, his substitution was more about fresh legs and a debut, but his Villa cameo was important in instigating Mourinho's desired tactical change. The Portuguese would surely have noted the tendency of Oscar, Mata and Hazard to drift inside into central zones. With Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic staying in deep positions to counter Villa's threat on the break in wide areas, there was little width to Chelsea's attack, meaning Villa's combative midfield trio could easily contain the overload of creativity in the middle of the pitch.

Immediately after he came on, Schurrle took up a position close to the touchline. He wasn't directly involved in the next play, but his positioning wide on the flank meant Villa's defence was more spread out across the width of the pitch, and therefore, there was more room for Hazard and Oscar, with Romelu Lukaku coming close to scoring what would have been the second, crucial Chelsea goal.

His movement from outside to in was fascinating: the diagonal run obvious, but enormously difficult for Villa's full-backs to track

However, Schurrle wasn't purely acting as a decoy winger - he was also looking to drive inside quickly into the penalty box. His movement from outside to in was fascinating: the diagonal run obvious, but enormously difficult for Villa's full-backs to track. Even when he was switched over to the right, Schurrle continued to replicate this movement, helping to drag away defenders and provide an additional goalscoring threat.

His influence was even more noticeable when Chelsea didn't have the ball, because he was so full of running. Perhaps not even a horde of angry rhinos might have stopped Schurrle from dashing back into defence to help protect Branislav Ivanovic - his sheer enthusiasm and work-rate was remarkable.

Chelsea might be overloading with creative midfielders, with the impending arrival of Willian exaggerating the trend, but its obvious Schurrle will still play a key role in this coming season.

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