World Cup winner Andre Schurrle departs Stamford Bridge as someone who impressed in Brazil, Juan Cuadrado, looks to force his way into the starting X1. The man holding the cards has shuffled his pack once more, and in Jose Mourinho Premier League leaders Chelsea have a boss with a distinct cutting edge.
The courting of Schurrle from Bayer Leverkusen seems to have begun before Mourinho rejoined Chelsea, yet the forward was still the first major signing of the Portuguese’s second spell at Stamford Bridge. This is a player who supplied Germany’s winning goal for Mario Gotze little more than six months ago.
Yet Mourinho is not someone to be mindful of reputations. Juan Mata, Chelsea’s player of the year for the previous two seasons, was flogged to Manchester United at the earliest opportunity. Mourinho clearly wanted more pace in the final third, in addition to the claimed defensive requirements, which made Mata surplus to his needs. Now Schurrle also finds himself jettisoned, and similarly at a profit to boot.
The German is hardly a slouch himself, is a good finisher and links the play well, yet these qualities are also possessed by two of Mourinho’s favourites, Eden Hazard and Oscar. With the great success of Diego Costa in firing in the goals, the all-important issue now for the boss is service.
Mourinho has decided that Schurrle is not the man to supply his star striker with the bullets, and has spent virtually nothing in decisively swapping him for the services of Cuadrado, who Chelsea hope will be the wide man getting the ball into Costa that was not Schurrle’s natural game.
A go-to out wide was the same thinking behind Manchester City’s acquisition of Jesus Navas the summer before last, who offered a width and pace that was lacking at the Etihad. However City’s premier striker, Sergio Aguero, is an altogether different kind of player to Costa, and part of the reason Jesus Navas has perhaps not been quite so integral as was hoped. Mourinho’s capture of Cuadrado could prove more inspired.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini did address his squad’s shortcomings during this transfer window, signing Wilfried Bony from Swansea. The addition should prove beneficial to the champions’ title defence, yet it was hardly rocket science considering the lack of numbers and fitness issues that pervade City’s attack, and Bony’s performance throughout 2014. It should also prove beneficial to Navas in that he will have a target to aim for that loves to do his work in the penalty box.
Yet the shortage of numbers is an issue that should never have arisen for a club with City’s resources, despite the extenuating circumstances regarding Alvaro Negredo and his return to Spain.
It is doubtful that Mourinho would have allowed himself to get into this position given Pellegrini’s circumstances, with plenty of cash to spend and in his second season in charge. Perhaps it is the sharper edge that the Portuguese commands that will prove decisive in this season’s title race.
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