Tammy Abraham scored three very different goals against Wolves. Taken together, they suggest he may be the all-in-one player Chelsea have been searching for in a striker.
Throughout the summer we advocated for Chelsea to use their three strikers as a battery of co-equals, strategically deploying Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud to match the opponent, the stage of the game and the run of play. When Chelsea were playing deep and attacking hard and fast on the counter, use Abraham’s or Batshuayi’s speed. When chasing a goal late in a sloppy game, put on Batshuayi to prowl and poach in the opponent’s box. If the Blues had sustained possession against a team playing a tight low block, use Giroud to provide aerial dominance on crosses and contort his body amidst eight defenders to somehow knock the ball in.
Unlike the entirety of the last preseason and season, when we were uniformly right, Tammy Abraham is showing that we our early estimates were wrong. And for that, we thank him. This is one of those times when it’s nice to be wrong.
Abraham’s three goals against Wolves represented three of the “goal types” we thought Chelsea needed all of their three current strikers to convert regularly.
The first goal was the sort of instinctive poach, requiring intelligent positioning along with a striker’s reflexive sense for the goal, that would previously call for Michy Batshuayi. Abraham was staying light on his feet 8-10 yards straight in front of goal. As two defenders closed on Mount, Abraham moved ball-side of the remaining defender so he could be first to the ball as it came off Mount, either as a pass or as a loose ball. The ball came out as Mount was brought down, Abraham took it on the turn and, off-balance and falling, whipped it into the net all in one move.
The second goal was a pure aerial striker’s goal, the kind Olivier Giroud can score all day, when he’s not attempting a triple sow-cow half-pike scorpion kick. Abraham was in almost the exact same spot in front of the net as the first goal as the ball came out to Marcos Alonso. Just as Alonso lofted a cross towards Abraham, the striker came around his marker to put a free header inside the near post.
The third goal, well, coming into the game we would loosely attribute something like that to Michy Batshuayi, if anyone.
Abraham first had to stop his run, turn and collect the pass with his back to goal, as it was a decent but not great pass from Jorginho (it was about what you would expect from a player’s first ever Premier League assist).
Abraham exhibited a moment of hold-up play as he fended off Conor Coady, before turning to run at Coady. Then the filth started. Abraham backed off to create some space between himself and Coady, they each paused, and then Abraham knocked the ball past Coady and accelerated explosively past the overwhelmed Wolves defender. Abraham then finished lethally low to the far corner.
The hold-up play had elements of Giroud and Batshuayi, the acceleration also resembled Batshuayi and the finish was along the lines of what we expected from Abraham. The entire sequence, most notably that moment where Abraham gave himself separation and then used it to rip past Coady, is something Chelsea have not seen from a striker for quite some time. If anything, it was Eden Hazard-esque.
Tammy Abraham’s three goals not only captured elements of his Chelsea striker partners, but those strikers who have gone before him. The second goal, right down to the assist from a Spanish full-back, resembled those that marked Alvaro Morata’s auspicious beginnings as a Blue. The aggressiveness and the run from deep on the third had shades of Diego Costa. The first goal is the sort of on-the-penalty-spot presence Chelsea were supposed to get from (chuckles to himself) Gonzalo Higuain. And of course, you can’t talk about a range of goal-scoring from a No. 9 without thinking of Didier Drogba.
Abraham’s seven goals this season are not just confirming his place as a starter, but his ability to be the all-around No. 9 the Blues have lacked. He is not dependent on service, game state, build-up or much of anything else to produce offence. He creates goals as well as scores them.
This alleviates a lot of the squad juggling Frank Lampard may have expected to do this season to ensure the Blues score more goals than the many he probably knew they would concede.
Now he just must be sure he does not neglect Abraham’s need for rest and recovery, and Olivier Giroud’s and Michy Batshuayi’s need for match sharpness. Abraham is still developing physically, and his style of play will take a toll on him as the season goes on. He will be susceptible to performance declines and injury due to fatigue if Lampard does not proactively manage his minutes. Injury or fatigue should not be the only factors that make rotation necessary. Rotation is, in fact, necessary to avoid those.
Chelsea may not need three strikers to cover every possible game state, as we predicted over the summer. But they will need three strikers to cover every possible game, all 50+ across four competitions.
Tammy Abraham is showing he can do everything in a game, but no player can do everything in all games. Just ask N’Golo Kante.