Many of Thomas Tuchel’s selections thus far for Chelsea have seemed political and that’s understandable given the situation and the club he’s walked into. Tammy Abraham starting against Newcastle, however, felt genuine and it was a shame he went down injured early. It is unknown how long (or even if) Abraham might be out, but someone will have to fill in for the striker. This could be the opportunity for others to step in.
The most obvious choice is likely Olivier Giroud who did come on as Abraham went down. He even scored as he often does when coming on. Giroud, however, might not be the most sensible choice. Chelsea has already seen this season that Giroud the super sub and Giroud the starter become very different players after just a game or two. Furthermore, when Giroud is playing, he tends to be the goal scoring threat at the expense of others scoring. That might be alleviated with a revived Timo Werner, but Werner’s down turn in form did coincide with Giroud becoming a starter. Giroud isn’t the reason Werner fell off, but it is a factor to consider.
In addition, Giroud’s unlikely to remain at Chelsea next season. Rumors are strong that Chelsea is considering a new striker and they would surely prefer to keep Tammy Abraham (difficult as that may be with his contract running low) over Giroud. Giroud is a fantastic player with a style that ages well, but so was Edison Cavani at Paris Saint-Germain and Thomas Tuchel found fewer and fewer reasons to use him. If a new striker is coming for Tuchel, Giroud is surely the odd man out.
Tied to that is the incentive to play younger players that have a long term future at Chelsea. Two of those readily spring to mind in Abraham’s absence: Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz.
At the moment, Pulisic seems the most likely because it is known that he is fit. He’s not had the best of seasons by any means this year, but he has been a preferred sub of Tuchel’s thus far. When coming on, he’s shown that he can play with Werner as another striker as well as a winger, with Mason Mount connecting the two.
But if the board is already playing games and Tuchel’s playing politics, there is surely a preference there that might actually be the best option for all parties. If Havertz is fit, it would make a great deal of sense to give him the minutes Abraham might have been getting. The main knock on Havertz this season has been his production and, at Bayer Leverkusen, he saw a great deal of his production come as a false nine.
Chelsea would have a few options involving that concept. First of all is Mount already playing a sort of false nine with Pulisic and Abraham. Havertz could line up alongside Werner a replicate that. Or he and Mount could be the inside forwards/10s and Werner could lead the line. Or, Havertz could simply be the false nine with Werner and Mount either side of him. It would be an incredibly fluid front three and the exact specifics aren’t as important.
This choice would please the board who surely don’t want to see a big money signing go unused (see, Kepa Arrizabalaga). Tuchel surely rates Havertz’s ability and he might still have a question on where Pulisic best fits into all of this (assuming 3-4-2-1 remains the go to).
Missing from this is Hakim Ziyech who still finds himself in an awkward position. He’s a new signing and the board doesn’t like to see their efforts wasted, but he is also on the older side and there is more incentive to play Pulisic or Havertz than Ziyech. Furthermore, there is still the question as to where he fits in for Tuchel at all. He is not quite a Tuchel style player and even if his form preceded Tuchel’s time, the German manager hasn’t found a way to improve the playmaker.
Tuchel has options due to his flexibility in formations and his players’ flexibility in positions and roles. Who replaces Abraham for the time he is out looks to be an open ended question. So, who do you think fills in? Let us know in the comments and on Twitter!