The curious case of Tammy Abraham: Why has it gone wrong for Chelsea’s top scorer?
This was meant to be Tammy Abraham’s big summer. One which he had hoped to experience his first senior major tournament with England, and sign a new long-term contract with his boyhood club Chelsea.
But Abraham will now fear that his dream of being part of Euro 2021 is dying and uncertainty surrounds his Chelsea future after being left out of yet another of Thomas Tuchel’s squads for the 5-2 defeat to West Bromwich Albion.
It is a strange and almost unique situation for a striker who remains Chelsea’s leading scorer and it is understandable why some of his team-mates, as well as Abraham himself, are confused by his exclusions under Tuchel.
Not only has Abraham scored 12 goals for Chelsea this season in his 30 appearances, he has also registered four assists. Chelsea have not scored twice in open play in the Premier League without him in the team since the 3-3 draw with Southampton in October, when Abraham went on as an 89th-minute substitute.
It is not just within the Chelsea dressing-room that eyebrows have been raised over Abraham’s omission, either.
As reported by Telegraph Sport, the vultures, at home and abroad, are already circling over Chelsea with the club yet to start negotiations over a new contract for Abraham, whose present deal will have only two years remaining on it at the end of the season.
It felt noteworthy that Brendan Rodgers name-checked Abraham just a day after he had been left out of Chelsea’s squad for the goalless draw against Manchester United in February.
Leicester City are one of the clubs that will be in the market for a new striker in the summer. Rodgers’ remark was not necessarily intended as a signpost to his interest in signing Abraham, but more the genuine surprise at his omission.
“I was looking at the Man Utd and Chelsea teams, and you’ve got a player like Tammy Abraham who can’t even get in the 18-man squad,” said Rodgers pretty much unprompted.
But the frustration of watching Dominic Calvert-Lewin add two more goals to his England total, as well as Ollie Watkins scoring on his international debut, was tempered by a hope that while other players were away with their countries, Abraham had time to get fit and try to impress Tuchel.
The 23 year-old trained all of last week and was fit to face West Bromwich Albion, presumably hoping he might get just his fourth Premier League start under Tuchel or at least be given an opportunity to make an impact from the substitutes’ bench.
But Abraham was once again overlooked, as Tuchel offered another chance to Timo Werner as Chelsea’s out-and-out striker, despite a horror miss for Germany, with Kai Havertz and Olivier Giroud on the bench.
Werner, Havertz and Giroud had all played for their countries ahead of Chelsea’s game against West Brom, so there was a hollow tone to Tuchel’s explanation that his team selection had been influenced by the number of international minutes his players had amassed.
Equally, it will be hard for Abraham not to doubt Tuchel’s continued insistence that his omissions are “nothing personal”, even though the pair have held one-to-one talks over his role.
In two of the three games he has started under the German, Abraham has been substituted at half-time, against Burnley and Southampton, and supporters speculated what Tuchel had meant when claimed the academy graduate was a good striker for the cups after he had scored the winner against Barnsley in the FA Cup.
Tuchel may have intended to have offered a straightforward compliment to Abraham, rather than meaning any back-handed offence, but this is a player who not only remains Chelsea’s top scorer this season but also topped the goal charts for the club last term, having scored 18 times.
Chelsea have put more than 10 years of hard work into Abraham’s development and the player himself has shown patience and determination during loan spells at Bristol City, Swansea City and Aston Villa before returning to grasp the number nine shirt that so many Chelsea strikers have feared down the years.
There remains, however, a sense that his loyalty could be taken for granted, given Chelsea last season chose to take up the option of adding the extra year to Abraham’s contract, extending it to 2022 and effectively delaying a long-term decision over his future.
Last summer, Abraham would have almost certainly signed a new long-term contract had it been offered and he would have been virtually guaranteed a place in Southgate’s squad for Euro 2020 had it not been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But Abraham will have no doubt noticed that he was not mentioned at all in the debate over who Southgate should take to this summer’s European Championship following the last set of games, even though he is only one goal behind Watkins and two in front of Danny Ings.
There remains time for the situation to be salvaged, particularly at club level, and Abraham has already displayed a willingness in his career to keep working and fighting, which may in fact be to his detriment at the moment when other players could react to such a swift demotion by sulking and causing difficulties.
But, at a time when the manager of one former Chelsea academy graduate, Declan Rice, has gone on record to value him at over £100 million and one of the club’s former strikers, Romelu Lukaku, is currently among the most prolific in Europe, it might be time for Tuchel to show Abraham a little more love.
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