Premier League 2019-20: Why Lampard would be right to give Tammy Abraham a chance
Chelsea's trip to Old Trafford next week will officially kick-start the Frank Lampard era at Stamford Bridge. With the Englishman's inexperience as a coach and the club's transfer ban, there is a lot of uncertainty about the upcoming season among the Blues faithful. A direct consequence of this situation is going to be chances for the club's academy players.
Over the last 15 years, no English club has won more silverware than Chelsea. The success the club has seen under Roman Abramovich has been unprecedented to say the least. Over the years, the Stamford Bridge has seen a new trophy added to its cabinet almost every season.
Despite the glory the club has seen, the club has faced a lot of criticism for the way it handled its youth and its famed 'loan army'. Manager after manager along with the decision-makers at the club have come under fire for neglecting the club's home-made prospects.
Despite the youth team winning every possible trophy and many players impressing on loan moves, it has been nearly impossible for them to get a chance in the senior squad.
With Lampard taking charge and former U18 and U21 coaches Jody Morris and Joe Edwards joining the first-team coaching staff, this is likely to change. And one of the key benefactors of that move would be Tammy Abraham.
Followers of Chelsea and English youth football have known about the young striker for a long while. Having joined the West London club at the age of seven, Abraham has been a consistent goal-scorer across age groups for the Blues and England junior teams.
Be it domestic competitions, UEFA youth league or international tournaments, he has found the back of the net everywhere possible. In his two seasons on loan in the Championship with Bristol City and Aston Villa, the Englishman scored 48 goals in 71 matches.
All the signs point to the making of a prolific striker. However, he is yet to get a proper chance to stake a claim in the first team. Despite his incredible goal-scoring record in the championship, Abraham had a disappointing stint in the Premier League with Swansea, where he only managed 5 goals in 33 appearances.
With doubts over him in the top division and Chelsea's history with young players, it seemed impossible for him to play for the Blues. However, that is going to change this season. With the club deciding to not extend Gonzalo Higuain's loan deal and sell Alvaro Morata, there is an opening in the first team for the 21-year-old.
With no new arrivals possible at Stamford Bridge, there is a fight between Oliver Giroud, Michy Batshuayi and Tammy Abraham for being the starting striker. There is no clear-cut option emerging for the Blues, and it is going to be a case of trial and error for Lampard over the course of the season.
The big question for the coaching staff is to decide who is going to be their pick for the start of the season. Everyone following Chelsea is debating who will get to have first go as the number nine at Old Trafford.
One would think Giroud's experience would hold him in good stead. Over the years, the Frenchman has proven to be an extremely valuable team player. His potent link-up and hold up-play help the team around him play better.
However, one thing that the footballing community has accepted now is that Giroud is not the player who will score 20+ goals a season. Having him up-front is not an option that is going to give Chelsea either a productive goal-scoring option or a long-term solution.
On the other hand, Batshuayi is someone who has the knack of scoring goals. His poaching abilities are up there with the best in the world.
However, he has just not won the imagination of any coach. Be it Antonio Conte or even Maurizio Sarri, neither was fond of Batshuayi. The story of his stay at Valencia is well documented, and by the looks of things in pre-season, even Lampard isn't convinced by him.
In fact, the Belgian was left at home for Chelsea's final pre-season game against Borussia Monchengladbach. Quite clearly, his overall gameplay and tactical work are not convincing. With various coaches coming to the same conclusion, one might want to look beyond him.
This is why giving Abraham a chance is worth the risk. Evidently, Chelsea do not have a striker of Sergio Aguero's quality waiting in the wings. If the club can invest so much time and faith on big-money signings like Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain, what is the harm in doing it with an academy graduate?
In the scenario Chelsea find themselves in, is there really anything to lose?
Abraham has proven that he has the capability to be a consistent goal-scorer. Having led the line for Aston Villa in a season they got promoted to the Premier League, he has shown that he can handle pressure and perform when the stakes are high.
While a lot is made of his failed stint at Swansea, it's worth remembering that the Welsh outfit were relegated that season and suffered a lot of turmoil, which included a change in manager and the entire team performing below expectations. One must also remember how ineffective Harry Kane was on in loan moves before breaking through at Tottenham.
Moreover, it is clear that Lampard is trying to integrate a high-pressing style at Chelsea. This is an attribute that Abraham has proven to be extremely good at, and with his age can be taught to get better at.
In a coach's first season, the main priority has to be to implement his philosophy. Hence, using players who are good at doing the off-the-ball work of the system is not the worst idea.
Ultimately, it will require patience. The odds of the 21-year-old hitting the ground running from the start are low; there are bound to be moments of frustration. But that is something Stamford Bridge has seen with various strikers in the past.
If there was ever a time for Chelsea to show faith in a young talent, it is now. And even if it does not work out, Lampard can always turn to Giroud and Batshuayi.