Andre Schurrle Adds an Extra String to Jose Mourinho's Powerful Chelsea Bow

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2014

AP Images

Three was the magic number for Chelsea at Craven Cottage on Saturday as they defeated West London rivals Fulham 3-1.

Three points in the bag, a total of 33 from a possible 39 over the past three months and three goals for Andre Schurrle to cap off a dominant performance.

Indeed, with Arsenal falling 1-0 to Stoke City, it proved a significant afternoon for Jose Mourinho and his players.

Topping the table heading into the weekend's fixtures, if Chelsea weren't already in control of the title race, they certainly are now, and it's Schurrle they have to thank for it.

"Andre is still in a learning period," Mourinho commented in his post-match interview with BBC radio station Five Live. "He needs to adapt to the Premier League [...] Andre in front of the goal is cold. He has cold blood. He's a really good finisher."

Sang Tan/Associated Press

The German showed exactly what his manager was talking about against Fulham and will rightly be taking all the plaudits from Saturday's victory.

From being on the periphery for much of this calendar year, Schurrle put in an encouraging midweek display against Galatasaray. Mourinho remained faithful to the 23-year-old by keeping him in the line-up, and he did more than repay his manager.

We've heard so much about Schurrle's midfield colleagues this term. Eden Hazard has dazzled, Oscar has been under the spotlight, having been preferred to the recently departed Juan Mata in the No. 10 role, while Willian has slowly won over his critics.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 01:  Andre Schurrle of Chelsea battles with Sascha Riether of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Chelsea at Craven Cottage on March 1, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Now the headlines are Schurrle's, and it couldn't have come at a more vital time in Chelsea's season.

Points are always a valuable commodity, but it's in the latter stages of any campaign when they become even more important, heaping pressure on rivals and strengthening a club's position.

Arsenal now trail Chelsea by four points, while City are further two back. Manuel Pellegrini's side have two games in hand, yet they aren't back in Premier League action until March 15. By that time, Chelsea's lead over them could have grown to nine points as they take on Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge next week when City are in FA Cup action.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21:  Andre Schurrle of Chelsea talks with his manager Jose Mourinho during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Fulham at Stamford Bridge on September 21, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Points on the board or games in hand? At this stage of the season, it's a rhetorical question and it will be interesting to see the psychological impact the points gap—however big—will have on City's players.

It's why Schurrle's hat-trick is so vital. When Chelsea needed a player to step up and throw down the gauntlet, it was the German who was on hand to strengthen the Blues' position in the title race.

Mourinho thinks otherwise.

"We're not favorites [for the title]. We're not top of the league. If City win [their games in hand] they are top of the league," he continued in his BBC radio interview.

The Chelsea manager's logic on his team's chances of lifting a fourth league title in 10 seasons hasn't won over too many people so far this season.

With Schurrle in this kind of form, it is easy to understand why fans are more optimistic.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes