© Clive Mason

Football

Tammy Abraham deserves his chance at Chelsea

Having already scored seven goals in just five games this season, Chelsea's new number nine is more than ready to take up the mantle

In the 55th minute of Chelsea’s away game against Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend, Jorginho played a long, routine ball over the top towards fellow blue Tammy Abraham. Taking it in his stride, he stopped abruptly before effortlessly pushing the ball past Wolves captain Conor Coady and firing it into the bottom left corner. It was his third goal of the afternoon and Chelsea’s first hat-trick in a year, almost to the very day, since Eden Hazard scored three to rout Cardiff City last season.

Abraham’s trio is worth watching again, if not just for Ian Wright’s excitable commentary on Match Of The Day, but as each goal perfectly demonstrates his exciting versatility as a lone striker. The first was a close-range rebound, beating a goal filled with a keeper and multiple defenders; his second, a pinpoint header from inside the box; and his third, as previously described, a combination of pace, skill and deadly accuracy. Even more impressive is the fact it was only his seventh appearance for the club.

As a result of Chelsea’s 5-2 win against Wolves, Abraham sits atop the Premier League goal-scorers table at this early point in the season, tied with Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero on seven having scored consecutive braces against Norwich City and Sheffield United respectively. He also had a promising pre-season, scoring on two separate occasions, the most notable against an almost full-strength Barcelona in Japan.

© Malcolm Couzens

His talent, therefore, has always been apparent since he joined Chelsea’s under-8s academy. Guus Hiddink, in one of his many, sudden interim roles at the club, would later bring him into the first team and gave him his Premier League debut. Then, like many of Chelsea’s other promising youngsters, he was sent out on loan – to three different lower-league clubs. The first, Bristol City, where he scored 26 goals in 48 appearances back in 2016. The season after he had a tougher time at Swansea City (who would be relegated to the Championship), scoring only eight times. And lastly Aston Villa, who he helped to promotion after again raking up 26 goals. Unlike a number of other young Chelsea loanees who were later sold – Josh McEachran, Gael Kakuta, Patrick Bamford, Nathaniel Chalobah all spring to mind – the West London club have been very keen to retain Abraham because of his promising goal-scoring abilities, his imposing 6ft 3in frame and his positive, eager attitude.

With Chelsea’s current transfer ban in full swing, there really is no better time for the striker to cement his place in the first team. Not only does he have a manager who trusts and believes in him, as well as an assistant who was previously the Chelsea under-21 coach in Jody Morris, but he is surrounded by a number of other academy players he has known for most of his life. This year, just five games in, Chelsea have already given more minutes to players under the age of 21 than in the entirety of any other season since 2005. Against Wolves, academy players Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori also scored, with the former having joined even before Abraham, at just six years old.

In recent years, many suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that the number nine shirt at Stamford Bridge was cursed. Big names such as Radamel Falcao, Gonzalo Higuaín and Alvaro Morata all failed to live up to expectations despite big transfers and huge wages. Previous manager Maurizio Sarri, for instance, would often play with Hazard as a false-nine due to a lack of confidence in his striking options. The transfer ban has, therefore, had the unintended consequence of forcing the club to give a number of young players an opportunity to play regular first team football. But, as Frank Lampard himself recently affirmed, those players are also deserving of the game-time they are receiving, based on their inherent ability, consistent success at academy level and further development out on loan.

© Neville Williams

Abraham’s competitive season at Chelsea actually started in rather disastrous terms. With the Uefa Super Cup between Chelsea and Liverpool poised at 2-2 and Chelsea now without fifth penalty taker Hazard, Abraham stepped up and had to score to take the shootout to sudden death. He missed. But the very act of stepping forward at that moment in the final, especially as he had only emerged as a second-half substitute, clearly showed his self-confidence and belief. Lampard later said: “It will be a test of his character that he doesn’t need – he has got great character.” Surrounded by his teammates having just failed to convert from the spot, no one looked more disappointed than Abraham.

In the immediate aftermath of the defeat in Istanbul, much like Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and a host of other black players this season, he received a deluge of racist abuse online. Lampard, as well as the entire Chelsea team, came out in full support of the 21-year-old and, much to his credit, he has resolutely silenced those so-called “fans” in the best way possible – by scoring goals for his boyhood club.

Game time for a player of his age is key and it looks like Chelsea will start the majority of their matches with Abraham up top. Expect, therefore, many more goals to be scored by the striker and many more records to be broken by this young Chelsea team. Considering that Abraham recorded a Premier League hat-trick before the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, even Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Gareth Southgate will also be tempted to fully introduce him into the England fold. Chelsea, it seems, have finally found their new number nine and, after years of searching, it wasn’t a multimillion-pound signing from a fellow European giant. Instead it was one of their own all along, a three-time loanee survivor and academy player born just a few miles from Stamford Bridge.

Now read:

The future is bright for Frank Lampard and Chelsea

Twitter needs to tackle football's racist trolls

Why Chelsea’s transfer ban could be a good thing...

GQ Recommends

Fashion

Tyler, The Creator has designed the best dad trainer yet

Fashion

Best new menswear items in the world this week

Watches

Audemars Piguet shines at this year's GPHG watch awards

Edition