African All Stars

Should Chelsea look to prolific Tammy Abraham to solve striking crisis?

5:01 PM WAT 23/04/2019
Tammy Abraham Aston Villa 12232018
While the Blues’ forwards have struggled for consistency all term, the towering loanee has thrived at Villa and deserves a shot at his childhood club

All it took for Aston Villa to find a way past a resilient Bolton Wanderers this weekend was 15 second-half minutes after the latter’s spirited first 45 minutes to hold the free-scoring Villans at bay.

Having been denied repeatedly in the opening half, Villa stepped it up a notch at the start of the second, and the pair of Jack Grealish and Tammy Abraham did the damage in the eventual 2-0 win that confirmed Bolton’s relegation to League One.

For Abraham, it was his 25th goal of a successful campaign that’s seen him recover from what was an underwhelming year in the Premier League with Swansea City. A quarter-century of goals in 37 games has bettered his return with Bristol City a couple of years ago where his 23 strikes came in 41 appearances.

Expectedly, the towering frontman’s frequency of goals has improved too: a goal every 149 minutes with City in 2016/17 has improved this term with a goal coming every 126 minutes. His tally for the year should be more, but for 19 big chances missed, eight higher than he failed to put away two seasons ago.

He ended that year second in the scorer’s chart behind Leeds United’s Chris Wood who hit the back of the net 27 times. This term, he currently sits three behind Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki with two games to play.

With Dean Smith’s side certain to make the playoffs, it could be an interesting few months for the Chelsea loanee. If the Villans do secure promotion to the big time, logic probably lets him stay another year with the club, given he wouldn’t need a bedding-in period and can continue right where he left off.

Contrarily, failure to gain promotion to the top flight might see the loanee caught between a rock and a hard place. With due respect to the Championship, Abraham, after two fruitful stints, has shown he’s got the toughness to thrive in the competition. After a disappointing year with the Swans in which he scored five times in 31 appearances (although 15 were starts), the next challenge is to prove he can hack it in the top flight at the second time of asking.

Will that be at his parent club?

The peculiar situation that surrounds the striking position at Chelsea has often generated a glut of opinions, owing to the sheer number of frontmen the club burn through.

Since the sale of Diego Costa, the Blues have had Alvaro Morata, Michy Batshuayi, Olivier Giroud and, very recently, Gonzalo Higuain toil up front with limited success.

Morata, who signed in the summer of 2017 from Real Madrid for a then record fee, started brightly after Costa was ostracized, but ultimately tailed off and has been loaned to Real’s city rivals Atletico Madrid, who have an option to buy.

The striker struggled to acquaint himself with the physical nature of the English game, and struggled with his toss-of-a-coin confidence which affected his performances.

World Cup-winning Giroud, in all fairness, rarely lets the side down when called upon.

The towering Frenchman has been brilliant in the club’s Europa League campaign this term, leading the scorers chart with 10 goals in 11 games, two more than Eintracht Frankfurt’s Luka Jovic – who interestingly, the West London club are rumoured to be looking to sign – but at 32, he isn’t a long-term solution.

Higuain was loaned in January to offer short-term reprieve, but has largely disappointed. The Argentine looks to be waning and seems incapable of producing week in week out. He’s netted four in 11 appearances, many of them brilliant finishes, but has not justified the decision to commit to a loan in the winter, rather than recall Abraham from his temporary spell at Villa.

Currently on loan at Crystal Palace, Batshuayi has been overlooked by Antonio Conte and Sarri, which probably suggests the Belgian is not fancied at Cobham.

With a potential transfer ban looming, there’s been talk of activating Giroud’s one-year extension option and recalling Morata from his loan spell at Atletico, with Higuain probably returning to Juventus, where he is persona non grata.  

Frankly, it won’t come as a surprise if the Blues choose to recall the disenchanted Spanish striker as opposed to the in-form Abraham. After all, history suggests it’ll be the most Chelsea thing to do, given the club have always been on the receiving end of an inordinate amount of criticism for not playing its youngsters.

While recent history with the gametime afforded Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi has improved the five-time English champions' image when it comes to blooding youth, it should be noted Sarri didn’t play the pair until he was backed into a corner, an unpleasant situation he hasn’t found himself in with Abraham...yet.

Morata has been at pains to state how unhappy he was in West London, so why are the club then willing to take back someone who doesn’t want to be there, consequently hurting club and player, when Abraham would presumably give anything to be successful at the club he loves?

The 21-year-old is dogged, prolific, and has age on his side as he looks to improve.

Following a disappointing season at Swansea, he also has a point to prove.

Even though the towering forward is still rough around the edges, his eye for goal and underrated ability on the ball are clear advantages, while the fact that he’s thrived in Smith’s possession-based style has, theoretically, set him up nicely to do well in Sarri’s system. He may not be the first-choice striker, but the Villa loanee deserves a place in the Blues’ squad, at least.

With 25 strikes this season, Abraham has netted more league goals than Higuain (four), Giroud (two) and on-loan Morata (five) combined.

So why are the club's management still doing everything to retain the deadwood when they have a potential gem right under their noses?