All Tammy Abraham could do while his Chelsea side slumped to a 1-0 defeat at home to West Ham on Saturday is to watch in frustration. Without the young striker leading the line against the Hammers due to a hip injury, the Blues seemed a bit lost, less dynamic, less cohesive in attack.
While a home loss in a London Derby isn’t a cause for concern, but Abraham’s absence is. Chelsea need him back as soon as possible and playing at his best if they want to maintain their place in the top four.
Abraham has impressed beyond anything imaginable since returning to his parent club this summer. After fourteen rounds of the Premier League, he’s tied for second in the league on 10 goals with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who shared the Golden Boot last season no less. Plus, in five Champions League games, he has also added a goal and assist each.
In total on the season, Abraham has become Chelsea’s most productive player with 11 goals and four assists. The squad as a whole has only scored 47 goals meaning Abraham has notched nearly a quarter of them himself.
Any time a player who has 25% of goals goes down, there’ll be a drop-off in a club’s form. And that’s exactly what happened against West Ham. For only the third time this year and the first since mid September, Chelsea did not score in a game.
Who Scored has rated Abraham the best player at Chelsea this year, averaging to 7.39 per game. Not once has he gotten a rating below 6, the highest on the year 9.34 when he scored a hat trick against Wolves.
The academy graduate has excelled this year statistically and been a model of consistency and hard work this year, becoming one of Chelsea’s most important players. Without him on Saturday, Chelsea’s usually potent attack struggled.
Making Others Better
Abraham’s style of play has been second to none this season and allowed his teammates to thrive and flourish playing around him.
He occupies multiple defenders in the final third because of his ability and pace. And with two centre-backs worried about him, that leaves the wingers, Christian Pulisic, Willian, and Mason Mount at times, the freedom to roam and create opportunities between the lines. Neither centre-back can step up on an incoming Pulisic, Willian, or Mount run because if they do, the ball gets slipped through for a streaking Abraham behind them.
Also, his hold up and link-up play has been superb, showing strength in front of goal and his relationship with teammates. He can comfortably play with his back to goal and pick out his teammates with passes as they run in behind or look for 1-2 combinations.
Olivier Giroud, for all of his qualities, doesn’t stack up to Abraham. With Chelsea’s players used to having a dynamic outlet in Abraham who can both hold up the ball when needed and get behind the defenders at pace, Giroud can’t keep up. His lack of pace slows down the attack and prevents Chelsea to get into any sort of rhythm.
All of his shortcomings were on display against West Ham. He couldn’t separate himself from either centre-back or link up with the rest of the Chelsea attack as he simply played too slow. Granted, Pedro, who hasn’t played regularly this year either, flanking to the right didn’t help as both the Frenchman and Spaniard failed to shake off the rust.
The World Cup winner is great in the air, in the box, and with his head. However, if he can’t get any separation from defenders, even an inch-perfect cross won’t find him. West Ham’s defenders made light work of Giroud despite all the crosses Chelsea sent in because of his glaring flaws.
Without Abraham, West Ham had a much easier time at that back than if they had to deal with him for a full 90 minutes, showing just how important he is to the team. Looking back on it, maybe Lampard should’ve gone with Michy Batshuayi up front instead.
That probably would’ve been the better option for the team, however, it was necessary for man-management. Giroud not only has been relegated to the bench by 22-year-old Abraham, but he’s also moved to third choice behind Batshuayi. The Belgian has come off the bench in the league and Europe most times pushing Giroud to understandably seek a move away from Stamford Bridge ahead of Euro 2020.
Lampard has said on several occasions he wants to keep Giroud as both competition and back up to Abraham. He’s still young, he’s slightly unproven against the big teams, and could hit a rough patch and need a game or two off to clear his head.
Chelsea Needs Its Starter Back
But after the West Ham loss, can the English striker really see Giroud as “competition” for the starting spot? No. He is clearly and rightfully the starting striker at Chelsea and Batshuayi has locked himself into the backup role making impactful appearances as a sub.
Many questioned Abraham’s receiving of the #9 shirt at the beginning of the year in the first place, but he has since vindicated that decision. After seeing his play throughout the opening third of the season and the result after he went down through injury, it’s clear Chelsea need him back fit and starting up top quickly.
Could Manchester City thrive without Sergio Aguero? They have to try now. How about Liverpool without Firmino? It’s a completely different team and a worse one at that. Take Harry Kane away from Tottenham and how do they fair? Well, maybe that’s a bad example. They went to the Champions League Final without him. Regardless, the point stands. Tammy Abraham has been one of Chelsea’s best players this year and an extremely productive and efficient one. Without him, Chelsea may well drop out of the top four, especially with Spurs revived under Jose Mourinho. Chelsea felt the good vibes for the past couple months with impressive wins and reaching as high as second in the league. But without Abraham, that could all end very quickly.