Tammy Abraham has had to adapt his game and style before, and he may need to do so again to make his way at Chelsea going forward.
What type of striker is Tammy Abraham? It seems like a simple enough question but there really isn’t a good answer. He is not a target man, at least not consistently. He is not really a poacher, though that is more or less how most of his goals come about. He can run in behind, but not nearly as well as a player that specializes in that should. He is great with helping buildup but rarely gets back to where he needs to be otherwise.
The answer is that he is all of those things but none at the same time. Part of that has been his development from the academy to Bristol City to Swansea to Aston Villa and back to Chelsea. At almost every club, something different has been asked of him. At almost every club, he has had to adapt to find a way.
He will need to do so again. Once he was injured before Covid, his playing time and performances plummeted. Olivier Giroud firmly grabbed his chance and with Timo Werner on the way, Abraham will have an uphill battle to find his way. That will come down to the adaptations he makes in his game.
When Werner first signed, the clearest solution seemed to be to play him and Abraham up top together, with Werner perhaps taking more of a winger role. That was before Giroud exploded as Frank Lampard adapted his set up to benefit the Frenchman. Christian Pulisic turning into the American Eden Hazard (or more?) further constrained the starting spots. And for next season, the rumors of Kai Havertz mandate someone has to be cut out of the starting XI to make room for the new signings. Abraham went from the Didier Drogba heir apparent to the odd man out.
That is why adaptation will become so important for the English striker. At Aston Villa, he was very involved in the build up. This is a trait he carried over to Chelsea. But as Lampard adjusted to use a target man like Giroud, a striker coming deep constantly like Abraham caused the box to lose any threat. Giroud and Pulisic exploded so much after Covid in part because both would end up in the box and both could look for each other as the rest of the team built up.
Abraham dropping deep leaves Pulisic alone up higher. While it would help Chelsea with possession, that does not seem to be as much of a concern as it was earlier in the season. Chelsea needs someone to help Pulisic out so he can help them out in turn. That is where the change needs to come for Abraham.
The English striker can still drop deep and assist, but he also needs to get back in to the box after doing his part. In the box he needs to have the awareness of his surroundings to play his teammates in rather than immediately looking to score himself.
Werner showed at Leipzig that he can do all of these things. Abraham needs to show the same. Ideally, in some way both can play together. But if not, Abraham has to at least earn Lampard’s trust back enough to be used in rotation.
The striker has done it before and can do it again. He will have to if he is to replicate his early season heroics next season.