Forgotten man Tammy Abraham could be this summer’s bargain


Not too long after the 2019 Championship play-off final, when the dust was beginning to settle on Aston Villa’s victory over Derby County at Wembley, Tammy Abraham must have realised something. Finally, after a three-year wait on loan at separate clubs, his big chance had arrived.

Having scored 26 goals helping Villa return to the Premier League, he would almost certainly be welcomed back there on another temporary or permanent deal, while other clubs would doubtless be enquiring, too. He’d played in the top flight for Swansea City a year earlier but struggled to impose himself due to his age and inexperience, as well as the fact the Welsh club limped to a disastrous relegation. He felt ready this time.

But his eyes would most likely have been drawn to the opposition manager on that late May afternoon. Despite failure to deliver a much-craved promotion at Derby, Frank Lampard was expected to take charge at Chelsea once Maurizio Sarri’s anticipated departure from Stamford Bridge was confirmed. Lampard, the club’s record goalscorer, was an advocate of giving youth a chance, and a transfer ban was hovering over the Blues; it seemed as though, after years of flashing Roman Abramovich’s wealth around Europe, the focus would finally put on Chelsea’s impressive youth academy and its products, including Tammy Abraham.

Lampard was swiftly appointed, and with Sarri now gone, there was no need to sign the striker he had pushed for the previous January, Gonzalo Higuaín, after an unsuccessful loan. The Argentine’s now vacant number 9 shirt was given to Abraham; it was a sign of the faith Chelsea had in him, despite a lack of successful previous incumbents of that shirt — it was even said to be cursed.

Nevertheless, it was all but a confirmation that Tammy Abraham would be the main striker as Chelsea embarked on another Champions League campaign after Europa League success in Sarri’s final game. Such a step up for the 22-year-old, not to mention the likes of Mason Mount and Reece James too, and even Lampard himself, was a test. Because he was at a club who had become accustomed to major imports, external pressure was always likely.

His hat-trick in a 5-2 win at Wolves in September was a key moment. It showed Tammy Abraham had the range in his game to play up front on his own and he could handle himself at that level. A respectable 15 goals in 34 Premier League games put him in a good position for a more prominent England role, but the coronavirus pandemic impacted him more than most players.

Postponing Euro 2020 by a year has completely changed Abraham’s perspective and hopes for that tournament; where he once seemed like a a certainty, now he appears very much an outsider in Gareth Southgate’s plans.

That is because so much has changed for him and Chelsea since. Lampard was afforded a lot of good will both inside and outside of the club last season. Qualifying for the Champions League was a rather attainable target and his status as a player and the transfer ban worked in his favour.

But no expense was spared in the summer of 2020; while the rest of football was struggling to muster up any sort of competitive budget, Chelsea, fresh from their ban on signings and with the money from Eden Hazard’s sale to Real Madrid there to be spent, reverted to type somewhat. That wasn’t great news for Abraham, who suddenly had to compete with Timo Werner, while others like Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech also arrived for big money.

Demands skyrocketed and Chelsea were now expected to compete on all fronts, meaning Tammy Abraham had to play even better, with Werner for company. Lampard’s side performed well early on — topping the Premier League in early December — but a run of just two wins in eight games saw him sacked less than two months later. Abraham, who himself had been less prolific, would now have to prove himself again, this time to Thomas Tuchel.

Just six goals in 22 league games is reflective of the striker’s troubles. He is on the periphery now and it feels almost guaranteed that he will leave Chelsea at the end of the season. Tuchel has made the Blues look impressive; they are again fighting for the top four and are well placed in their Champions League semi final against Real Madrid. Other strikers are rumoured to be on the manager’s wishlist, and Tammy Abraham is a sellable asset who could command a good fee.

It will pain Abraham if indeed he is forced out of the club where he grew up but a change could benefit him. Chelsea will likely want around £30-40million, a price tag which is sure to alert most of the Premier League to his availability. There are some good teams in need of extra firepower, who could offer him the platform to fulfil his potential.

While Villa would undoubtedly welcome him back, they’ll struggle to match Chelsea’s valuation and justify such a deal with Ollie Watkins on top form. West Ham United, whose unlikely Champions League push appears to have run out of steam, are the obvious option. They have money to spend after the sale of Sebastien Haller, who is still to be replaced, in January. Leicester City could do worse as they search for a long-term heir to Jamie Vardy, while even Tottenham Hotspur may see value in him if they are forced to part with Harry Kane.

Tammy Abraham is not the perfect, or complete, front man. He still has a way to go, but is still only 23 and will improve. Chelsea may see fit to cash in on him, but he has a skillset which will be in demand and for the money he will likely cost, there won’t be many better options on the market. He represents a real coup.

 


 

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