For many reasons, December 2019 feels like a different world away, but especially for Tammy Abraham.
The striker had just netted a late winner at The Emirates against Arsenal to claim a major three points to stun the Gunners. Abraham ran away to the delirious Chelsea supporters and executed a perfect knee slide. This was a dream come true for Abraham who had been at Chelsea since a very early age and had developed through the youth ranks at Cobham.
The arrival of Frank Lampard and Jody Morris in the Summer of 2019 smashed open a door for not only Abraham but a crop of young talent craving a chance.
Fast forward to the closing weeks of August 2021 and it appears Abraham is on the verge of an exit from his boyhood club and the move is not met with shock, but mainly acceptance from many quarters.
As Romelu Lukaku re-enters Stamford Bridge seven years after leaving for Everton, the circumstances surrounding Abraham’s exit feel eerily similar to the ones faced by Lukaku in the Summer of 2014.
Diego Costa arriving as the ready-made forward to solve Jose Mourinho’s striking woes was always going to be favoured over a younger Lukaku who had spent the previous two seasons on loan at West Brom and Everton. Chelsea were vindicated in their decision to sell Lukaku as Costa’s goals the following season would take Mourinho’s men to a Premier League title, and then again under Antonio Conte in 2017.
Although Abraham has not been on loan since 2019, the promising young player being passed over for a £98million transfer feels more in keeping with modern Chelsea than the brief honeymoon period Abraham experienced under Lampard.
The arrival of Thomas Tuchel changed the fortunes of Chelsea in the greatest way possible, taking the club to Champions League glory. Players like Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Jorginho and Marcos Alonso all found new life at Stamford Bridge when their futures appeared to lie elsewhere. However, Abraham has found the German’s presence to be fatal for his chances in the first team.
Since February 20 away at Southampton, the 23-year-old has not started a game for Tuchel’s Chelsea. Brief substitute appearances against West Ham United and Fulham gave him a combined 17 minutes on the pitch. Being completely left out the matchday squads for the FA Cup and Champions League final sent the message out definitively where Tuchel saw Abraham in his plans.
The treatment of Abraham has at times been bizarre as the Blues struggled to find the back of the net under Tuchel in games against Leeds, Brighton and Arsenal. Part of the criticism of Abraham has been his lack of goals in the bigger games for Chelsea, but Abraham had found a knack at consistently finishing chances in the so-called ‘lesser games’.
Even with his chances limited, the forward found key goals against West Brom, Sheffield United, Newcastle and West Ham last campaign before Lampard was dismissed.
The numbers paint Abraham in a positive picture compared to his fellow attackers at Chelsea last season. No Premier League side underperformed their xG (Expected Goals) more than Tuchel’s Blues since the German’s arrival in January, as highlighted by The Athletic. Abraham was the only Chelsea attacker who over-performed their npxG (Non-penalty Expected Goals).
Abraham also has the credit of being the club’s top scorer for the last two seasons despite his recent exclusion.
Gazing back to the 19/20 season when he was given the consistent minutes to impress, Abraham excelled. Via Statman Dave, Abraham’s p90 percentile rank among strikers in the league placed him in the 90s for touches in the box, total shots, shots on target, non-penalty goals and non-penalty xG.
Abraham is probably not the ready-made forward the Blues require to propel them to a Premier League title in 2021. Part of the paradox young attackers like Abraham find themselves in at clubs like Chelsea is they need that time to develop into the player the club desires, time which sadly is not going to be afforded now Tuchel is in the building.
As Lukaku did, Abraham should see this exit as the motivation to prove his critics and former club wrong. Whether that sees him stay in the Premier League or travel abroad, the platform is there for him to excel in an environment that will give him the backing he needs. Even if for sentimental reasons supporters want to keep Abraham around, he simply cannot go through another six months of being shunned for a third left-back on the bench, he deserves better treatment.
Abraham was written off before he even came back to Chelsea’s first team in 19/20, but has taken the pressure and scrutiny of that role and done all he could at his current age to impress. The confidence he showed to take the No.9 shirt – a number associated with failure in recent Chelsea history – should give you the impression of a resilient character. To quickly bounce back from the decisive penalty miss against Liverpool in the Super Cup and go onto have an impressive breakthrough year was inspirational.
Even after Chelsea’s summer splurge on new attacking talent last year, Abraham managed to find himself back in Lampard’s team and scoring important goals once more.
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Following his swift removal from the matchday squad, Abraham acted with class and compassion towards his fellow Chelsea teammates. Being there to celebrate with Kai Havertz following the Champions League win, consoling disappointed friends after the FA Cup final and remaining a part of Chelsea’s squad. Rather than painting a frustrated figure, Abraham kept his head up at the most difficult period of his career so far.
Watching Abraham score goals for Chelsea was thoroughly a dream come true given his journey through the youth ranks at Cobham. Whenever Abraham spoke, he spoke like a Chelsea supporter. For Tammy’s own career, there is general goodwill across Chelsea fans to see him get that chance somewhere else. It was telling at pre-season encounters with Bournemouth and Spurs supporters vocally sung Abraham’s name. It further showed that the connection with his narrative runs a little deeper than most for fans.
Abraham has fallen victim to a change in circumstance, but also the unrelenting pressure at Chelsea to win now and ask questions later. Lukaku is an arrival we should be excited about, but his long road back to West London began with a disappointing exit.
We may not have seen the end of Abraham’s story at Chelsea, but if it is he should be proud of it.
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