“He’s walking on water”
said Oliver Giroud talking about the current incumbent of Chelsea’s number 9 shirt Tammy Abraham.
It’s been a long path to this point for Abraham, who despite his young age, has already racked up over 100 senior appearances.
His first loan, to Championship side Bristol City, really set pulses racing, as he scored 23 goals in 41 appearances, earning him the title of player of the season.
That natural goalscoring prowess caught the eye of many Premier League sides, and it was with Swansea City where Abraham would spend the 2017/2018 season.
It would be a difficult season not just for Abraham but Swansea as well, as they failed to create many chances, or score many goals, as they found themselves relegated back to the Championship.
Abraham’s 5 goals in 31 appearances appeared to have dented his reputation at Premier League level.
However he was handed an opportunity to impress in the pre-season of the 2018/2019 under Maurizio Sarri.
Abraham’s only notable contributions, a missed penalty against Inter Milan and a scored penalty against Arsenal (both in shoot-outs), didn’t do enough to convince Sarri to keep the youngster around the first team.
On the 31st August, Abraham joined Championship side Aston Villa, where John Terry was assistant manager, looking to prove himself again.
Abraham notched 25 goals in 37 appearances, including a winning penalty in the play-off semi final, before helping Villa win promotion back to the Premier League, beating Frank Lampard’s Derby County in the final.
Both Lampard and Abraham found themselves back at Stamford Bridge this season, where Lampard made it no secret that he trusted Abraham to be his main man.
Abraham showed his own self belief by taking on the ‘cursed’ number 9 shirt, hoping to prove the recent records of the likes of Fernando Torres and Alvaro Morata (we won’t mention Steve Sidwell) were a thing of the past.
The 22-year-old is currently sitting at the top of the chats for goals scored (8) and the trust shown in him by Frank Lampard so far this season has seemingly been repaid.
Or has it?
Yes, Abraham is the Premier League’s top scorer, but is there an underlying cause for concern?
Big chances missed
All strikers miss chances, especially young ones, but Abraham also tops the charts for big chances missed (7).
In big games, you may only get one chance and you need to take it, and Abraham has been guilty of missing some guilt edge chances so far this season.
Lampard is quite clearly confident that eventually some of these chances will turn into goals, but the more big chances missed, the more the favour swings into buying a world class striker.
Championship level striker
This was the main argument labelled against Abraham before the season started, many, myself included, didn’t believe Abraham had what it took to make it at the top level.
His 8 goals so far might make those doubters look foolish right now, but of his 8 goals, half of them have come against newly promoted teams, one against a side who’ve battled relegation for the past three years.
It’s also worth mentioning that the other three goals, his first Chelsea hat-trick, came against a Wolves side who’d yet to win in the league.
In his two games against top six opponents (Manchester United and Liverpool) Abraham has only managed an average of 6.30 rating according to Who Scored.
It’s worth mentioning of course Abraham’s Champions League goal against Lille. With back to back games against Ajax coming up, which will make or break Chelsea’s qualification, Chelsea and Lampard will be hoping Abraham improves that goal tally.
Getting in the right place
Another table topped by Abraham is one that gives the biggest cause for optimism.
Abraham has had 30 shots so far in the Premier League, joint highest with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Aston Villa’s John McGinn.
The fact Abraham has consistently got himself in the right positions is pleasing. Converting 8 of those 30 shots puts him in the same league as Aguero, a world class striker, but it seems there’s a long way to go for Abraham.
That’s probably all to do with age, the more experience he gets the better he’ll become, there’s no doubt about that.
Stick or twist
The question for Lampard however, is whether or not he’s confident enough that Abraham can lead the line for us when the transfer ban is eventually lifted.
I did a twitter poll that received 238 votes, in which 83% of voters would rather stick with Abraham than replace him with a world class striker right here right now.
However a lot of responders said they would like to sign a better quality striker to compete with Abraham, somebody like a Luca Jovic, who’s struggled at Real Madrid so far this season.
Our current back up strikers, Giroud and Michy Batshuayi have both been urged by their respective national team coaches to seek opportunities away from Stamford Bridge if they continue to find themselves second/third fiddle to Abraham.
Meanwhile, Abraham only received a three minute cameo on his first call up to England. Which might suggest that Gareth Southgate has yet to see enough to convince him that Abraham should be providing more serious competition to Harry Kane.
A season of chances
We don’t know how this season is going to pan out, where we’ll be come May.
All we do know is that these youngsters have been given a season, thanks largely to the transfer ban, to showcase what they can do.
Right now Abraham is our first choice striker, and he’s got the goals to back that up.
But when the transfer window opens again for Chelsea next summer, Abraham will have needed to have proven against the bigger teams that he’s ready and able to lead us again next season.
Dean is the author of ‘Cult Fiction- how a year under Sarri almost tore Chelsea apart’ available on Amazon now amzn.to/2T7v5Tu