Chelsea have laid solid foundations under Frank Lampard, as the team have qualified for next season’s Champions League. The belief in the manager and his wish to develop the youth players has paid dividends for Roman Abramovich. Although the season won’t be remembered as one of the best in recent history, the players and coach will be stronger for the experience. The transfer activity has already been eye-catching with the additions of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech, with more expected to follow. However, the club must not marginalise those that have played a part this season.
The player most likely to be cast aside is Tammy Abraham, despite his recent goal against Bayern Munich. There are many that doubt his quality as a leading striker in the Premier League, but that seems very premature based on his last 12 months. During his first full season as part of the Chelsea squad, the forward scored 15 Premier League goals. Considering his lack of experience in the top-flight and the pressure of playing for a top-six team, that is an excellent return.
It is his underlying numbers that should provide the biggest encouragement to Lampard and his coaching staff, as they suggest this season wasn’t a flash in the pan. According to Understat, Abraham’s expected goals (xG) for the season was 18.08.
Although he underperformed on this metric, his average of 0.73 xG per ninety minutes underlines his intelligence in the final third, as he regularly makes the correct runs and gets into goal-scoring positions. From players with ten or more Premier League goals, only Gabriel Jesus (0.94) and Sergio Aguero (0.96) average a higher xG per ninety. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering they play in the best attacking team in the division.
His critics will use his underperformance of his xG as a stick to beat him with, especially when combined with his big chances missed in the recent season. Abraham missed 22 big chances and that has caused a question of his finishing ability.
This is something he will need to improve on, but the best players will miss more big chances as they are getting them more frequently. To provide context, the top ten in big chances missed include Gabriel Jesus (24), Roberto Firmino (20), Raheem Sterling (19), Sadio Mane (18), Jamie Vardy (18) and Mohamed Salah (15). At the age of 22, it is okay for Abraham to be getting into these positions and missing. In theory, composure and decision making when shooting should improve with experience.
According to FB Ref (powered by Statsbomb), Abraham is averaging 3.58 shots per ninety with an accuracy of 39.8%. Only Gabriel Jesus (4.52), Sergio Aguero (4.52) and Mohamed Salah (4.07) score higher in this metric, which shows the Chelsea striker is always looking to be positive in the final third.
Despite this being his first full season in the top flight, Abraham has shown throughout his short career that he is a goal-scorer. He got 49 goals across two Championship loan spells with Bristol City and Aston Villa. The big disappointment was his time with Swansea City in the Premier League, but even during this period, he managed five goals from 1721 minutes in a poor side.
Towards the end of the season, Olivier Giroud came into the starting eleven ahead of Abraham. This may show a lack of faith when the pressure is on. Alternatively, Lampard may have been taking the youngster out of a pressurised situation to protect him and favouring a striker more suited to the style of the team.
The arrival of Werner will create further doubts about Abraham’s role in the squad. As a manager, Lampard can be very attacking and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he opted to use them as a pairing, similar to how the German has been used by RB Leipzig.
If the signing spells the end of Abraham as a regular starter for Chelsea, that could be damaging to his development. Abraham is already performing very highly on attacking metrics at the age of 22 and has 15 Premier League goals in his debut season as a first teamer at Stamford Bridge. Over the coming years, he will get even better as long as he continues to get plenty of minutes.
It would be a huge mistake for Chelsea to cast Abraham aside.