While Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was delighted to come away from Sporting Lisbon’s Estádio José Alvalade stadium with all three Champions League points on Tuesday evening, he would have been bitterly disappointed at the number of chances his side wasted.
And the man guilty of missing the most goalscoring opportunities on the night was Andre Schurrle, who risks being axed in January unless his reliability improves over the forthcoming months.
Schurrle fluffs his lines against Sporting
The Germany international spurned four chances to score - including one gilt-edged opportunity following good work from Eden Hazard - and was hauled off, somewhat unceremoniously, for Willian in the 57th minute.
While it’s impossible to fault Schurrle’s superb work ethic, Chelsea’s first-choice right-sided winger needs more than motivation and stamina to become one of Mourinho’s main men.
At 23, Schurrle still has age on his side and proved that he’s capable of scoring goals by netting nine in 47 appearances last term. But you don’t get much time at a club like Chelsea.
So far this season he already has two goals in four matches, but he can consider himself extremely fortunate that Sporting Lisbon failed to find a way past Thibaut Courtois in the Chelsea net. A headed goal by the excellent Nemanja Matic proved enough to seal maximum points for the 2012 European champions.
Schurrle must aspire to reach Hazard's level
Schurrle must aspire to reach the level of the man who plays on the opposite flank at Stamford Bridge: Belgium international Eden Hazard, who is two months younger than his German teammate.
The brilliant left-sided winger scored an impressive 17 goals in 49 appearances for Chelsea last season and should improve on that tally this term, despite his relatively slow start to the campaign.
Hazard is a player capable of scoring 20 goals in all competitions every season, while Schurrle should be setting himself the target of bagging at least 15 each year.
No excuses; so much creativity
Playing in a team featuring Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Matic, Hazard and other gifted stars means that’s not an unreasonable target. Failure to start scoring goals on a more consistent basis - particularly in the biggest matches - could convince Mourinho to seek an alternative winger in January.
The Chelsea boss reportedly has an interest in Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado, who has also been strongly linked with a move to Manchester United and Barcelona, as well as the Blues, in recent months.
Release clause in Cuadrado's contract
The Colombia international has finally convinced his current employers to insert a €35 million release clause into his new contract, which has not been signed just yet, and that means any interested club can open negotiations with the player and his agent provided they stump up the required cash.
Cuadrado had never been a consistent goalscoring winger until last season, when he netted an eye-catching 15 goals in 43 games.
The quality of most of those goals were outstanding. This is a right-sided winger blessed with pace, deceptive power and an ability to score goals from a variety of angles.
At 26, Cuadrado is a few years further down the line than Schurrle, so much will depend on whether Mourinho believes Chelsea’s current winger is on course to become a world-class forward.
Mourinho must decide: Schurrle or Cuadrado...
Performances like last night’s will inevitably leave him with a few doubts, and Schurrle can ill-afford to have too many more underwhelming displays between now and January, when Mourinho will be free again to spend cash on reinforcements.
That signing Cuadrado would deny Manchester United the chance to secure the classy Colombian’s services could provide Mourinho with even more of a reason to snap up the Fiorentina star. He’ll effectively be killing two birds with one stone.
Schurrle, though, has the quality to show Mourinho that he deserves to be Chelsea’s right-sided winger for many years to come.
But will he start hitting the back of the net on a more regular basis - or will he continue to fluff his lines?