In the aftermath of Chelsea’s disastrous and damaging 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United, Tammy Abraham came in for heavy criticism on social media, just a matter of days after overcoming his 10-game goal drought against Crystal Palace.
He wasn’t good enough on the day, even if he wasn’t the only one in Chelsea blue to disappoint. Unlike his peers, however, he faces major and immediate challenges to his role from the outside.
The £47.5 million (€59m) signing of Timo Werner from RB Leipzig significantly threatens his status as the main striker; Werner scored 95 goals in 159 games for his former employers and has moved to Stamford Bridge for a starring role up t
Giroud has earned four starts compared to Abraham’s three since the Premier League returned in late June. Even before the reintroduction of the France international, his younger counterpart struggled.
Frank Lampard has already spoken of Abraham’s first-class attitude upon losing his starting spot, while the England forward maintains a good relationship with 33-year-old Giroud, who has mentored him at times this season.
But in the first half against the Blades, the young Blues striker just wasn’t in the game. Indeed, he didn’t have a single shot at goal and only touched the ball 13 times, putting him below every other outfield player on the pitch.
Abraham has enjoyed better days against Chris Wilder’s side, scoring three times in his last two matches, which included his first-ever senior goal at Stamford Bridge. On Saturday, though, he simply couldn’t be found by his team-mates.
But he fronted up alongside Cesar Azpilicueta for the television interviews after Chelsea’s abysmal display at Bramall Lane.
“He let us know how he was feeling after the game,” Abraham admitted of Lampard as he went on to express the importance of bouncing back in their next game against Norwich City at Stamford Bridge.
During the second half against Sheffield United, Lampard opted for a more direct approach. Abraham ended up having five shots, four of them coming after his manager brought on Giroud and went with a front two.
But it wasn’t enough and Dean Henderson wasn’t really threatened as he kept a clean sheet. The blank at Bramall Lane adds further doubt over whether the 22-year-old can regain his early-season form that saw him shoot to the top of the club’s scoring charts.
Abraham loves Chelsea, having shown that at the peak of his powers when he emulated Didier Drogba’s goal celebration upon scoring a late winner away at Arsenal in December.
But it was in the home game against the Gunners when his season turned, his brilliant work rate giving way to injury as he damaged his ankle to win a late corner which Chelsea scored from. He played on but he had to overcome a painful knock that severely disrupted his rhythm.
Abraham’s xG (expected goals) since his injury has actually risen to 0.84 per game – compared to 0.68 throughout the entire season – but he has only scored once in 451 minutes of action.
There are also signs that he isn’t getting into the right positions as often with his shots per game down from 3.4 over the season to 2.6 since facing Arsenal on January 22.
Of his 16 goals, 14 have come in the league, including his most recent vital strike against Palace. There have been only two league goals since the turn of the year.
After the Palace game, his contract was extended until 2023 due to a clause in the deal that he signed in 2017. There is no pay rise for the striker and it is not a new contract in the conventional sense.
In fact, if anything, it gives Chelsea better value on any potential sale should they decide to cash in, with Abraham’s previous contract having been due to expire in 2022.
This season, amid a two-window transfer ban, Lampard’s focus on youth has seen financial rewards and stable long-term contracts given to a host of players.
Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James, Billy Gilmour and Fikayo Tomori are just some of the homegrown stars to have signed lucrative new terms. Abraham remains the odd one out.
There have been initial talks to sign off on a salary increase and contract duration to reflect the striker’s status as an England international but an agreement has not yet been reached.
Chelsea maintain a very good relationship with Abraham’s representatives, having done deals with the Wasserman player agency for Victor Moses and Marco van Ginkel in the past.
Both parties may be wise to proceed with caution and see how Chelsea’s big summer of spending will influence the dynamics of the squad next season.
Abraham has already proven that he is a good Premier League striker, but that’s not enough. To really fulfil his dream, he must rise higher again.