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How Tammy Abraham has influenced Chelsea from a tactical perspective

Over the last three years, Chelsea's Tammy Abraham has established himself as one of English football's most promising strikers. At 21 years of age, he already has two full seasons of excellent scoring form at Championship level, hitting 23 goals for Bristol City in 2016/17 and 26 for Aston Villa last term. Now, under the managerial guidance of Frank Lampard, he is beginning to showcase similar form in the Premier League.

Abraham is no stranger to the top flight. He spent one year on loan with Swansea City in 2017/18, making his senior international debut for England in the same campaign. But with just five goals in 31 outings, he failed to establish himself as a sure-fire starter. It was uncertain if he would ever make the grade at Stamford Bridge, but with a transfer ban the club were forced to look within for talent.

Along with Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, Abraham is now enjoying first-team football at Chelsea for the first time. And with four goals in his two latest league appearances, he's underlining exactly why Lampard has shown such faith in him. Here, we analyse the youngster's growing influence.



DIFFICULTIES AND RESURGENCE

Abraham's ascension to regular game time at Chelsea hasn't been without difficulties. He started in his side's league opener away to Manchester United, hitting the post in the first half. Failing to improve on that near miss, he was helpless in a 4-0 defeat. Days later he missed his penalty kick in the European Super Cup shootout loss to Liverpool, after which he was the victim of racial abuse online.

It was a tough week for the club, and even tougher one for the player. But Abraham showed exceptional maturity and mental strength to come through it, doing his talking on the pitch.

After some nervy touches at Old Trafford, his link-up play developed rapidly. Comfortable receiving with his back to goal, he has demonstrated some neat touches and wonderful flicks to bring teammates into play. He has also utilised his physical strength well, competing with and holding off attentive markers to secure possession under pressure. Even more impressive than his all-round play, however, has been his finishing.

In his last two games, Abraham has scored four goals. Those four goals have essentially gained Chelsea four points in a 3-2 win over Norwich City and a 2-2 draw with Sheffield United. Lampard's tactics have not yet led to consistently positive performances or results, but Abraham is nonetheless proving himself to be a Premier League striker.



A SUSTAINABLE SCORING SENSATION

Abraham's four Premier League goals this season have come in two games. In those games, he had seven shots, of which five hit the target. So, in short, 80% of his total shots on target in his most recent two appearances have found the back of the net. For those interested in underlying statistics, his Expected Goals tally for this term so far is 1.81 – 3.19 below his actual goals tally – per Understat.

Going on these numbers alone it would seem that the youngster's recent scoring form is not sustainable. However, it's also worth noting that he has created these goals from minimalist service. If and when Chelsea start firing on all cylinders and putting up more chances for him, it's possible that his current streak can be repeated or continued.

In truth, Abraham has done a lot with very little. Both of his goals against Sheffield United came from defensive errors – his first after a goalkeeping fumble just outside the six-yard box, and his second after a mix-up between two centre-backs trying to head the ball clear. Previously, against Norwich, he scored with a snapshot from a cross and then from outside the box through two defenders and an unsighted goalkeeper.

The video evidence suggests Chelsea's new number nine to be an opportunist with an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, an unmeasurable trait all great strikers seem to possess, as well as an ability to work shooting angles and a capacity for exploiting space available to him. He doesn't need quality supply to score goals, and that is a huge help for a Chelsea side struggling to attack in a balanced manner.



ABRAHAM AND GIROUD

With a transfer ban, Chelsea were unable to sign a new striker – something many felt the club desperately needed – going into this season. They were left with three choices: Abraham, Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi. The latter has played just seven minutes thus far and is a different type of striker to the former two in that he prefers to operate in and around the opposition box and face goal.

In Lampard's preferred 4-2-3-1 system, Abraham and Giroud appear the main contenders for the number nine role due to their abilities both in front of goal, with their back to goal, and outside of possession. They are both hard workers, intelligent in their movements, provide ingenuity and have good aerial presence. However, they are also different in subtle aspects.

Giroud is slightly taller and stronger in the air. In one start and two sub appearances this term, he has won 42.5% of his aerial duels compared to Abraham's 28.6%. The Frenchman also has an outstanding touch and is one of the best players in the Premier League at holding the ball in and making it stick when it comes his way. However, Abraham is faster, offers more threat in transitions, is quicker to press opposition defenders, and is able to carry an attack single-handedly without players running off or beyond him.

What this means is that, with Abraham up front instead of Giroud, Chelsea can be slightly more aggressive in their pressing from the front, exploit space available on the counter-attack quicker, and can rely on their striker to fashion opportunities for himself.

Abraham has found his scoring touch after a tough start to the season, and his all-round play is befitting of a Chelsea striker. Finally, after years spent on loan and waiting for his chance, he looks ready to make his mark in the Premier League.

Blair Newman
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Blair Newman

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