Three time’s a charm, as the saying goes. In the case of André Schürrle however, his fingers will be crossed that two will – finally – be better than three. From seemingly out of nowhere, newly promoted Premier League side Fulham completed the signing of the Borussia Dortmund forward on a two-year loan deal, which sees Schürrle return to England for the first time since his spell at Chelsea.
After achieving a return to the English top flight, the historic southwest-London club have pulled no punches in the market as Slavisa Jokanovic has his eyes firmly set on establishing permanent residency in the Premier League. Experienced signings in the mold of Besiktas keeper Fabri and Nice center-back Maxime Le Marchand signaled tempered yet necessary acquisitions. But it was the shock move of the highly touted Jean Michaël Seri that saw many stand up and take notice.
Now, with the signing of Schürrle on a two-year loan agreement is, many will tip the Cottagers to successfully navigate relegation waters for safety.
Still just 27-years-old and in his prime playing years, the Ludwigshafen am Rhein-native brings a wealth of top-flight experience. After coming through the ranks at Mainz, a stellar 2010/11 campaign saw him make the jump to Bayer Leverkusen. His stock had risen enough over two seasons at the BayArena to net a move to English shores with Chelsea; it would end in disappointment.
A return to Germany with Wolfsburg saw somewhat of a resurgence on the back of his involvement in Germany’s extra-time game winner against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup and in fairness he did have a solid 2015/16 season. A leap up the ladder once more would take hold as he would trade cars for tech when he completed a move to Borussia Dortmund, but this too can be classed as failure. With an abundance of attacking options at his disposal, new boss Lucian Favre has clearly labeled him as surplus to his plans at the Westfalenstadion.
Though he has truly failed to establish himself in the long-term at any club he’s ever appeared for, Fulham have a signing that can genuinely improve them.
Jokanovic’s preference for a 4-3-3 deployment suits Schürrle to perfection; a player who thrives in more direct systems where his positive qualities can come to the fore. In a Fulham system where counter-attacking football plays a prominent role, a front-three partnership with wunderkind Ryan Sessegnon and – presumably – Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrovic may prove incredibly fruitful.
During last seasons Championship campaign, a heavy reliance on play down the flanks under Jokanovic was commonplace, while utilising Aleksandar Mitrović as the attacking focal point/aerial threat in the area. Supporting runs from midfielders Stefan Johansen, Tom Cairney and Kevin McDonald provided options for a pull-back as well. It was a well-balanced system, one that is surely to continue this coming season; Schürrle should feel right at home on a tactical level. His flexibility in positional deployment is another major plus-point, being able to slot in on either flank, as a reserved striker, or as the lone striker if desperate times arise. Such flexibility suits the ever-changing tactical needs of the Premier League.
The question around Schürrle, however, is twofold; can he find form and, more importantly, can he re-adapt to a league where he struggled during his first stint. In truth, much of his struggles at Stamford Bridge came by way of José Mourinho; his heavy touch with players and ruthless selection policies that often limit legitimate chances for many could be a root cause for his struggles in England previously.
It’s clear that his time at Dortmund has come to an end, even if he doesn’t earn a permanent move away via his loan-spell with Fulham. Favre can call upon no less than seven wide players who are currently in the first-team, three of which (Christian Pulisic, Jacob Bruun Larsen, and Jadon Sancho) are not yet 20-years-old.
Whether if he’s successful with Fulham or not, this could be one of the few remaining opportunities that Schürrle is afforded to resurrect a career that once offered so much promise.
By Andrew Thompson.