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Hinrunde Review: Andre Schurrle

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“Ooooh yeah, he’s on our team, isn’t he?”

AFC Sunderland  v Borussia Dortmund  - Friendly Match Photo by Deniz Calagan/Getty Images

I picked a picture of Andre Schurrle in his bench warm-ups for a reason: it’s where he’s featured the most for BVB so far this season, and that’s a real problem. Schurrle was supposed to be a signal of intent from Dortmund moving forward this season. Losing key midfielders Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to England in the summer, watching the club shell out a healthy chunk of change on Mario Gotze and breaking the club record with at 30 million Euros for Schurrle. Simply put, Dortmund very rarely spend that kind of money on players in their prime, usually preferring to buy young and develop. It also meant that Schurrle was expected to come into the team and perform at a high level from day one, especially considering an injury to Marco Reus ensured the left flank to Schurrle while one teenager or another would be featuring opposite him.

That production has failed to materialize almost completely. After notching an assist on opening day with a well-placed cross, Schurrle has managed 1 assist against Legia Warsaw, and an equalizing goal against Real Madrid, undoubtedly his biggest moment as a Dortmund player to date. In between, he has seen time on the shelf because of a knee injury, and then spent time on the bench despite being healthy enough to play seemingly because the tandem of Ousmane Dembele and Christian Pulisic pulled ahead of him in the pecking order.

Schurrle’s injuries have made it difficult for him to get the ball rolling on the season and gain any sort of form. It’s too soon to just write him off as a player considering the quality he’s shown in his career to date. But a veteran World Cup champion in his prime should be able to outplay teenagers for 30 million Euros. There is no way that’s too much to ask of him.

His positional inflexibility hurts his value as well in Tuchel’s system. As has been noted before, Schurrle plays on the left wing. That’s it. He doesn’t seem to have the capacity to move further inside like Dembele or Pulisic, he doesn’t swap wings with his opposite (a common enough maneuver in Tuchel’s playbook that Pulisic, Dembele, Emre Mor, and Marco Reus all carry out without much difficulty), and he’s not even the best left winger on the team, as the spot is also Reus’s preferred position. This makes Schurrle’s extended stay on the bench understandable: why move Reus, a better player, out of his best position to accomodate Schurrle, when Dembele, or Pulisic, or possibly even Mor can do the job just as well and play on either side?

Of course, with the amount of injuries that have hit Dortmund this season, Schurrle will inevitably still have a role to play in the Ruckrunde. He notched a goal and an assist in BVB’s winter friendly against PSV Eindhoven, and he will need to continue that sort of form into the second half of the season. Marco Reus and Ousmane Dembele have picked up knocks that may leave both players out for an indeterminate amount of time, and the left wing is open once again. Dortmund paid far too much money for a bench player, and if Schurrle wants to ensure any sort of future at Westfalenstadion, the time to show some sort of end product is now.