The last time a young Chelsea striker missed a penalty in the UEFA Super Cup, it spelled the end for Romelu Lukaku at the club. 21-year-old Tammy Abraham stepped up and missed one six years later against Liverpool, but he’s only improved since taking on the mantle as the main striker for the Blues.
He was targeted on social media soon after the Super Cup tie, and later revealed that the racial abuse “left his mother in tears”. The player responded with strong displays on the pitch, and has proved his doubters wrong so far. It’s a troubling story, but a testament to his character.
Abraham is currently scoring at a rate of a goal per game, and he’s likely to pass ten before Christmas if he keeps it up. It’s still early days, but it could finally be time for Chelsea to break their number nine curse.
Abraham’s role at Chelsea
As I watched Chelsea capitulate to a poor Sheffield United team from the stands in a recent 2-2 draw, I was struck by their reliance on Tammy Abraham to muster a goal threat. It’s not a slight on his teammates; rather an acknowledgment that the forward won almost every aerial duel on the day, recycling the ball out to midfield time and again as they battled against a team that could smell blood.
He got two goals on the day, and eventually came off in the 84th minute before he had the chance to bag a hat-trick.
Chelsea’s transfer ban is the obvious reason for his opportunity in the first XI, but Frank Lampard already trusts him to start ahead of World Cup winner Olivier Giroud. Abraham is clearly faster than the glacial French forward, but he also knows how to build up the play, contributing to the team in a similar style to another English striker in London.
Chelsea’s Harry Kane?
It’s still too early to make serious comparisons to Kane, but the England talisman notched 21 goals in 34 appearances during his first full season at Tottenham. Abraham looks to be of a similar mould, as the younger striker has similar power and accuracy, while his eye for goal is reminiscent of the former ‘one season wonder’.
Just like Kane, he’s kept his head held high during difficult periods, and he’s taken his chance without looking back. While the Spurs striker is almost unmatched in terms of his finishing, the younger forward is ahead so far when you look at the stats.
Abraham has already shown that he has an idea of where the net is at all times, scoring goals despite a low average of 2.8 shots on goal per game. In comparison, Kane has three goals in four matches, and has taken 3.3 shots on goal per game.
Mason Mount has taken some of the attention off Chelsea’s star striker, as the diminutive midfielder draws inevitable comparisons with his manager. If it wasn’t for the inspired performances of his teammate, it’s likely that Abraham would be under even more pressure to come up with the goods.
The fans will always be more patient with one of their own, but it takes a special striker to click with the Blues.
The curse of the number nine shirt
Abraham has already bagged four goals in as many games, and could have added to his tally with a shot that struck the post against Manchester United in Chelsea’s Premier League opener. He could be the player to finally help the club to get over their number nine curse, which has seen a number of forwards falter frequently while wearing the shirt.
He inherited the squad number from Gonzalo Higuain, who returned to Italy after failing to replicate his previous form during a loan spell. Alvaro Morata also felt the pressure of leading the line for Chelsea during his stint with the club, but the Spain international had never played a full season as the undisputed striker, despite impressing at Juve and Real Madrid previously in his young career.
In comparison, Abraham was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year for his role in helping Aston Villa win the play-offs, and notched an impressive 25 goals from 37 appearances. He’s up for the long haul, and he’s coming off the back of a good goal scoring season.
If his start to the campaign is anything to go by, Abraham should be able to bag 20 league goals towards the business end. He’ll have to avoid injury, while younger players tend to go through hot and cold spells fairly regularly.
Lampard seems to be willing to keep faith with him for now, while Giroud is a more than capable alternative if Abraham begins to tire during the second half of the season. Either way, they won’t be able to buy a new striker during the winter window.
He could still fall away after a drought, and four games is too soon to see if he’ll be able to cut it week in, week out against the best defenders that the Premier League has to offer.
To his credit, Abraham doesn’t seem fazed, and he’s the most likely player to lead the scoring charts for Chelsea by the end of the season.