Football Features

Tammy Abraham: Why Chelsea striker is the “Curse Breaker” England need

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 11:04, 8 October 2019

Tammy Abraham has scored eight goals in eight Premier League games so far this season.

He has already surpassed his previous season’s best in England’s top flight and in much, much less time. He played 31 times during a loan spell for Swansea City in 2017/18 but he was too young and the Swans were too bad, so he scored just five goals. This led many to question his ability to score consistently at the highest level.

Yes, he had scored 23 league goals for Bristol City the season before and he went on to score 26 – one in the play-offs – the season after for Aston Villa, but those clubs were both in the Championship. There would be no shame if Abraham turned out to be yet another striker who was capable of dominating England’s second division whilst being out of his depth in the first.

But Abraham is made of stern stuff, and wants to succeed at the highest level possible. This summer, thanks to Chelsea’s transfer ban, he was given his chance. The club had no choice but to put him up-top. Having given up on throwing expensive imports at their No. 9 shirt, they handed it to Abraham (a decision no doubt influenced by new manager Frank Lampard and his unshakeable trust in youth).

A bold move given that Chelsea’s No. 9 shirt is cursed. Well, not really because it’s a football shirt number and you can’t curse those. But the club has had an extraordinary run of bad luck and/or bad decision making when it comes to appointing someone fit to wear the shirt.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Hernan Crespo had worn the shirt with distinction either side of a disappointing spell from Mateja Kezman, but once Jose Mourinho handed it to a hatchet man defender Khalid Boulahrouz, the shirt had been disgraced, until now. Among those to have donned the shirt since then are Steve Sidwell, Franco Di Santo, a withered and witless Fernando Torres, a broken Radamel Falcao, the aimless Alvaro Morata and the hapless Gonzalo Higuain.

Ironically, of course, whilst this was going on Chelsea had arguably one of the five best No. 9’s in Premier League history in Didier Drogba, only, the Ivorian wore the No. 15 and then the No. 11. Still, the shirt looked to be anything but the blessing it should have been.

However, Abraham looked at all that bad juju, smiled, and said ‘bring it on’ – he cheerfully accepted the No. 9 shirt this summer and took on the challenge of scoring goals for a Chelsea side that was desperately in need of them.

Abraham is unafraid, see. He’s made of really strong stuff. And he’d have to be: after missing some golden chances against Manchester United on the opening weekend of the Premier League season he then missed a penalty and cost Chelsea the UEFA Super Cup. This was a huge blow and mirrored the last young striker who wanted to be Drogba’s heir: Romelu Lukaku.

Whereas Lukaku was cast out by Mourinho (and took his time rebuilding his reputation at West Bromwich Albion and Everton), Lampard to his eternal credit kept Abraham in the firing line. He didn’t have the luxury of selling him but he absolutely didn’t have to start him again for a while, but when Olivier Giroud didn’t find the net for an hour against Leicester City, Abraham had his window.

He didn’t score there, true, but the following week he, perhaps emboldened by his early season failures, lit the game up. He smashed two past Norwich City – the first a really nice effort from just outside the box – and just like that, he was away.

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Tammy’s skill-set is simple: he’s made for scoring goals. Not that he can’t do anything else but he’s so good at scoring why would you dilute his focus? Abraham’s goals so far have shown a remarkable instinct for being in the right place at the right time to apply the killer touch. It’s not always flashy, but it’s always effective.

But then sometimes it is flashy. Very flashy. His first goal as said was a strike from range and his seventh, the goal that sealed his hat-trick against Wolves, was an utterly sublime strike. Abraham stood up Conor Coady and then with a simple drop of the shoulder nudged the ball beyond him, raced after it and smacked it low into the net. An incredible heat check.

With seven goals in three games, suddenly everyone was taking Abraham seriously. But Chelsea are far from a perfect side and Abraham is not a perfect striker, so three games without a goal followed. You’d be forgiven if you thought that Abraham had merely undergone a purple patch to start the season and that his goalscoring was now complete.

But away to Lille in the Champions League there he was, scoring again. The way he hung on the shoulder of the defence allowed Fikayo Tomori to murder the French side’s offside trap, and from there it was a simple finish for Abraham.

And when he returned to the Premier League at the weekend, his darting run behind the Southampton defence allowed him to lift the ball over the onrushing ‘keeper for his ninth goal of the season.

Nine goals for Chelsea’s No. 9, and now he’s in the England squad and for the first time in forever the Three Lions have a genuine alternative striking option if Harry Kane is out of sorts.

Sure, Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy have always been around, especially under Gareth Southgate, but both are one-dimensional strikers and sporadic scorers at international level.

Kane is a three-dimensional wizard and if you had to pick just one aspect of his game to recreate it would be the goalscoring. Well, as we’ve seen already this season, Abraham fears nothing and has the attitude, focus and skill to meet any challenge head on.

His is the Curse Breaker.