Tammy Abraham has emerged as Chelsea’s talisman thanks to a breakthrough season that has taken his side to the brink of the Champions League last 16.
Just 18 months ago, Abraham was one of a host of Chelsea players packed off for yet another loan spell that seemed to indicate his chances of ever shining with the Blues were slim to non-existent.
But Abraham’s time in the Championship with Aston Villa proved the making of the young striker and Chelsea are reaping the rewards.
Now Abraham stands as the undisputed leader of Chelsea’s attack, with his powerful presence and predatory instincts making him an essential part of Frank Lampard’s precocious team.
If Chelsea are to secure the win they need to make the Champions League knockout stages, then it is Abraham who is likely to play the key role in the Group H clash with Lille at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Abraham is just 22 and is playing only his second season in the top-flight, but the England international’s huge value to Chelsea was clear to see over the last 10 days.
When he was sidelined with a hip injury for their London derby against West Ham, Abraham’s absence left Chelsea looking impotent as they slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat.
But just days later, Abraham was back in the starting line-up and Chelsea were revitalised as he produced a goal and an assist in a 2-1 win against Aston Villa.
Abraham, a product of Chelsea’s youth academy, already has 11 Premier League goals this season and 12 in all competitions.
It is a far cry from his dismal loan spell at Swansea in 2017-18 when his lack of goals and subdued performances led some to suggest the Londoner wasn’t cut out for the Premier League.
But Abraham hit 26 goals in 40 matches on loan at Villa, helping them win promotion from the Championship and catching Lampard’s eye during his one-season reign at second tier Derby.
‘Passion and hunger’
When he took charge at Chelsea, Lampard was unable to sign players due to a transfer ban, a predicament that accelerated Abraham’s rise to the first-team.
He has taken his opportunity emphatically but, as Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta points out, it isn’t just goals that make Abraham so vital.
“Not only is he scoring goals he is playing for the team, recovering the ball; he made a tackle in our own half that was an amazing effort for him,” Azpilicueta said after the Villa game.
“He made an assist as well. I am not just looking into his goals as a number because he is doing more than that.”
Asked just how far Abraham can go after his superb first half of the season, Azpilicueta said: “I am confident that he can get many more goals because of the way he is working and improving.
“It is amazing and he has the potential to go even higher. We know we are still in December with a lot of games but with his passion and hunger, he is capable of getting to the top, for sure.
“He showed his desire in pre-season to be a striker for Chelsea. It is something he has dreamt about and he worked for it all the way through the academy. He got his chance and is making the most of it.”
Lampard believes Abraham’s desire to make his mark will keep him firing on all cylinders as Chelsea enter the hectic Christmas programme with a do-or-die showdown with Lille.
Lampard’s team can’t be certain of progressing to the last 16 unless they win their final group game and the boss said: “He’s a personality that’s growing in our dressing room every day with his enthusiasm and his will to win.
“All you say is, as they come, game after game, can you keep scoring, can you stay hungry and what can you do for the team.”