Amidst all the transfer madness, spare a thought for Tammy Abraham. Twelve months ago, the striker found himself in serious demand. He broke records aplenty and won a number of individual accolades at Championship side Bristol City, not least usurping Moussa Dembélé for most goals by a teenager since the league began.
A year on and, yes there is still demand for his services – but a sense of alarming urgency as part of the package. Tammy turns 21 in two months’ time and despite earning a year’s invaluable Premier League experience with Swansea City last term, he was unable to prevent them from getting relegated.
He netted five goals in 31 league appearances for the Swans, which doesn’t make for impressive reading – especially having started a fair chunk of those matches. Upon reflection, he’ll acknowledge that too. Unable to replicate the red-hot Championship form when granted top-flight opportunities, he crucially displayed flashes of the individual brilliance which has seen him so highly-rated in recent seasons. Only Jordan Ayew scored more often than the England under-21 international, which highlights Swansea’s attacking struggles more than anything.
So why the urgency?
Although last season’s experience was an unforgettable one from the player’s perspective, it very much feels as though this year will prove decisive in whether or not he has a long-term Chelsea future. Just being talented and hard-working is not seen as good enough anymore, not least at the top clubs. It’s even more difficult for strikers, who are predominantly judged on how many goals they score – not their overall contribution to a team, chances created and all the rest besides.
The Blues have built a notorious reputation for ruthlessness, not just with managers but their first-team players too. You could genuinely argue that all four of their current senior centre-forwards have uncertain futures in west London, for various reasons. However, Tammy still has youth and endless potential on his side. For now.
Should he swallow his pride, return to the second tier?
Having already established his ruthless goalscoring pedigree in England’s second tier, should he drop down and recapture the heights which saw him praised weekly across the country? It’s a difficult question to outright answer, as there are pros and cons attached.
If he does join a Championship side and repeat his Bristol City excellence in the final third once more, critics will be quick to suggest the league is more suited to his current ability or playing style, as a creative-minded poacher. Equally, it could be seen as a backward step in terms of development, having already conquered that experience at the first time of asking.
If you analyse some of the summer acquisitions for youngsters in-and-around Tammy’s age-group, you’ll further understand this point. Players including Liverpool’s Ben Woodburn (Sheffield United), Manchester City defender Tosin Adarabioyo (West Brom) and club teammate Mason Mount (Derby) have all joined Championship sides recently, in search of regular first-team minutes that they would struggle to earn at their parent clubs.
They are all talented and highly-rated, but pushing them to Premier League clubs could prove damaging if they don’t settle quickly, while the Championship environment is one where you’re continuously learning and there’s more scope for mistakes and individual weaknesses to be ironed out. Aston Villa, Derby, Leeds and former side Bristol City have all been linked with season-long loan movesin recent days. However, you cannot fault him for wanting to stay among the Premier League’s best.
“Growing up as a young kid playing for Chelsea, I’ve always wanted to make it to the top and just being out here with the first-team in pre-season has given me a chance to prove myself. The reason I go out on loan is to get that experience, so when I come back to Chelsea I can claim my position. I’ll do whatever it takes and just keep doing my best.”
Or risk another top-flight season – elsewhere or even at Chelsea?
It’s a risk, but one that if calculated correctly, could easily pay off and help him progress further as a footballer under new management. Brighton, Crystal Palace, Newcastle and newly-promoted Fulham are all potential destinations for Abraham to consider before next week’s transfer deadline, all of which have varying expectations.
Palace might be the best option, depending on whether Roy Hodgson makes more acquisitions – having secured the services of Schalke’s creative midfielder Max Meyer on a free. The club’s over-reliance on Wilfried Zaha in recent seasons has been evident to see while record signing Christian Benteke continues to struggle for consistency in-front of goal.
Tammy could benefit in a similar way to that of club teammate Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who impressed on-loan in south London last season and was rewarded with an England World Cup call-up.
In contrast, he could stay and fight for a starting berth at Chelsea. It’d be a brave thing to do but could pay off long-term too as there might not be a better opportunity than now. With an impressionable new figure in Maurizio Sarri at the helm, as well as their current attacking situation, who knows? Morata has flattered to deceive in England, Olivier Giroud’s worries over regular minutes could see him leave while Michy Batshuayi remains undecided about whether he should depart permanently after an impressive loan spell at Dortmund last season.
Whatever his decision, this season promises to be an important one for Tammy Abraham. Can he improve upon last term’s numbers or will he turn into another Patrick Bamford – wasted potential?