Can Tammy Abraham succeed at Chelsea after an impressive start to life at Swansea?
All too often in English football, prolific young forwards are idolised and seen as the solution to all of the Three Lions’ problems. With Tammy Abraham, that is yet to be the case, despite the fact that he is already outscoring the likes of Marcus Rashford in the Premier League this season.
Last season, Tammy Abraham was one of the Championship’s surprise packages. Loaned to Bristol City, manager Lee Johnson prepared an extensive presentation which he gave to Chelsea staff to convince them that Ashton Gate would be the ideal destination for the teenager.
At the time, Johnson revealed his delight at sealing the deal, telling Sky Sports, “we put an awful lot of work into signing Tammy Abraham, meeting his parents and convincing Chelsea of our philosophy. But we felt he was worth waiting for.”
It paid off with his 23 league goals accounting for 38% of the Robins strikes and proving enough to keep them in the second division. Pundit Leroy Rosenior summarised his contribution neatly in April, also recognising just how far he had come throughout his year in Bristol.
“He seems to have enjoyed his football this season, and he has developed into much more than just a goalscorer. He may have caught the eye with 21 league goals but when you watch him now, he’s closing down defenders and playing with real intensity,” he wrote in the Bristol Post.
He also earned his first international call-up in October 2016 and went on to impress at the European under 21 Championships, becoming a regular for Aidy Boothroyd. This season, he has come into his own, with two goals and two assists for the young Three Lions side in his past two games.
That breakthrough form caught the eye, and it was no surprise to see a host of Premier League clubs linked with a move to take him on loan this year. Brighton and Hove Albion were said to be interested, according to the Telegraph, and Rafa Benitez was desperate to take him to St. James’ Park too. Instead, he opted for Swansea, where Chelsea put their trust in former coach Paul Clement to take the youngster to the next level.
It was perhaps surprising that Chelsea did not consider holding onto Abraham. With Diego Costa in exile and now sold, Alvaro Morata a new arrival and Antonio Conte clearly lacking confidence in Michy Batshuayi, he could well have offered an interesting option for the Italian to have in his squad.
In fairness to the Blues, his departure is probably the best possible scenario for his development. He has shown at the Liberty Stadium that he excels when given regular football and the confidence to lead the line, something that Paul Clement has been happy to do.
There may also be doubts about Abraham’s long-term suitably in Chelsea’s current system. Conte prefers a centre-forward who can get involved physically and be dominant in the air, a role which Morata has excelled in since replacing Costa, but that is not Abraham’s style of play.
The 20-year-old is good in the air, there is no doubting that, but he excels most as a poacher looking to snap up chances inside the box, rather than battering defenders in the same way that the two Spaniards do. With four goals and an assist from ten games though, he has been involved in an impressive 71.4% of the Swans goals to date and is truly leading the line from the front.
To label Abraham a poacher is too simplistic though, and it is something that Chelsea must be cautious not to do. Having developed in his time at Bristol City, particularly with regards to his work rate, Paul Clement has also been pleased by his work at the Liberty Stadium, as he told Sky Sports:
“We know he [Abraham] has got that ability, but what I was more pleased with today was his work rate, his running in behind, he did better with his back to goal and that’s more like what we expect.”
Where he has previously struggled, Clement believes that he is coming on leaps and bounds. Up against the strength and speed of Premier League defenders, Abraham has often become the focal point in attack.
At first, it looked as though it would take some time for him to adapt, and Clement recognised that, explaining to the Daily Mail, “He’s a big boy but sometimes you are up there alone against two central defenders. One will come tight and aggressive and the other one is cover, so how can you be better at holding the ball up?”
He is developing though, and his coach has been impressed by how quickly he is improving. Clement added “there were signs of that improving again today [against Huddersfield]. The times when he went and shut the centre-back down, or the goalkeeper down, or when he was running back.
All very important things and things he has to do every week. He is learning quick. This is a big step up to this level from what he has done before.”
It is a big ask for any youngster to become the leader in attack of a struggling Premier League side, but Abraham has stepped into the role and made himself look comfortable. It may still be early days in his Premier League career, but he is clearly making an impression in South Wales.
In fact, his experienced team-mate Leon Britton has even drawn comparisons to one of the great center-forwards of the modern era when asked who Abraham reminds him of, responding by telling BBC Sport that he reminds him of “someone I played with years ago, Jermain Defoe, in terms of the hunger to score goals… He just wants to get on the end of everything. He is very single-minded.
“Tammy can go on and have a great career in the Premier League. Hopefully, he will continue to do it here and then go back to Chelsea and score many goals there,” Britton added. That will undoubtedly be Abraham’s end goal, but success at Stamford Bridge is notoriously hard to come by or any striker, let alone a homegrown talent.
What is clear is that a positive performance at Swansea this season will do his chances a world of good, and Antonio Conte will certainly be keeping an eye on the progress of the striker after his current form.
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