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Tammy Abraham vs Victor Osimhen: Who's had the better start to the season?

9:45 AM EDT 9/19/19
Tammy Abraham Chelsea 2019-20
Both strikers have begun at a furious pace with their respective clubs, but whose performances have caught the eye more so far?

A quirk of birth a generation removed has conspired to pit two strikers playing league football in two different nations against each other, at least in the minds of the Nigerian football faithful.

Kelvin Tamarebi Abraham – remarkably that is not the full extent of his naming – has this season taken to the Premier League swimmingly in blue, relishing the chance to finally be the figurehead of boyhood club Chelsea after a number of loan spells away.

The result has been the sudden realization that the player, born to a Nigerian father in London, has a taste for scoring in clumps: for his latest feat, he put Wolves to the sword on Saturday, netting three times at Molineux.

Just across the channel, Victor Osimhen has been doing something more or less similar, but no less spectacular.

The Nigeria international cannot claim a long-term affiliation with Ligue 1 runners-up Lille, but that has not stopped him from announcing himself in style since joining in the summer from Belgian side Charleroi.

His predatory finish against Angers at the weekend took his tally with Les Dogues to five in his first five games, matching a French league record set by none other than the enigmatic Mario Balotelli.

Their respective starts to the season have led to much speculation as to the international future of the former.

Whereas Osimhen has risen through the ranks of the Nigeria national teams, and has already featured for the Super Eagles (he scored his first senior goal in a friendly against Ukraine last week), Abraham’s eventual allegiance remains unclear.

His latest comments have indicated he is hedging his bets somewhat, and Nigeria international John Ogu took to social media last week to trumpet the prospect of both being a part of the national team set-up.

However, it is immediately apparent to even the most casual viewer that there is little chance of both playing together; their styles are simply too similar.

That is what makes them so difficult to separate.

Both have started four of their side’s five league games so far this season, and the raw numbers work out in Abraham’s favour: his weekend hat-trick took him to seven goals, while Osimhen has scored five.

The impact and timing of their goals have also been somewhat analogous: for Osimhen’s brace on his debut against Nantes, see Abraham’s against the similarly yellow-clad Norwich (opener and winner in a one-goal victory); for Abraham’s decisive Wolves treble, see Osimhen’s sumptuous double against Saint-Etienne.

However, on this score, one might say context gives Osimhen the high ground: his goal on Friday last week actually led to a victory, whereas Abraham’s brace against Sheffield United could only see Chelsea draw against the newly-promoted side.

The 2015 Fifa Under-17 World Cup Golden Boot winner is also a year younger than his Chelsea counterpart, and has only this summer moved up from the Belgian top flight to the French, a real quantum leap in terms of quality of play and opposition.

Abraham, for his part, swapped scoring in the Championship for scoring in the Premier League, but he is not altogether a novice at this level; one of his three loan spells away from Stamford Bridge came with Swansea City in the 2017/2018 season and, despite his best efforts (he managed five league goals in 15 starts), he seemed rather unprepared for that level at the time, a willing enough worker with a deficit in confidence and application in the decisive moments.

There is now nothing of that player, of course, as he seems to have mastered, not only his own body, but most crucially how to manipulate his surroundings, opponent and all.

An extra year or two will do that to round out a player, and it is to Osimhen’s credit that, despite a coltish running style and a gangling awkwardness, he is putting them away in a top European league.

Just over a year ago, he failed trials with Zulte Waregem and Club Brugge, and parent club Wolfsburg were all too happy to dispense with him on loan.

While it can be argued that the competitive level of Ligue 1 is not quite the same as the Premier League, that line of reasoning can also cut the other way: having higher quality players (such as Chelsea do) to provide service would account for Abraham’s marginally higher output, therefore making Osimhen’s tally the more impressive haul.

In either case, it is necessary to look beyond the mere numbers, but even with context, it is not exactly a straightforward consideration.

If the question is meant as a sort of mental exercise in deciding which the better player is, a larger sample size might help, but one suspects it is not a debate that will subside quickly, especially if Abraham elects to pitch his tent with England’s Three Lions.