A transfer ban may have prevented the Blues from signing a top-class striker during the summer but their academy product has been rapidly becoming one
Chelsea have had better teams in their recent past but not one with as much soul as Frank Lampard’s.
That heart was in evidence again in a rousing 5-2 win over Wolves at Molineux on Saturday – but there was also greater solidity and, most thrillingly of all, further evidence that, in Tammy Abraham, the Blues have unearthed a genuine goal machine.
The 21-year-old went above Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero in the Premier League’s goalscoring charts with a fine hat-trick to take his tally for the season to seven – in just five appearances so far this campaign.
The doubters who emerged after his Super Cup final penalty miss have been well and truly silenced.
Some scepticism surrounding Abraham would have been understandable, of course. He had never proven himself at this level but sometimes young players just need a chance. And not many former academy stars at Chelsea had been given one in recent years.
However, things have changed since Lampard took over during the summer. He and Jody Morris knew full well how much potential there was to be unlocked at Stamford Bridge.
Some critics said that Abraham was nothing more than ‘a Championship striker’; while more superstitious sorts felt he would be unable to break ‘The curse of Chelsea’s No.9 shirt’.
They couldn’t have been more wrong. Abraham looked like a complete striker as he took the lead in the race for the Golden Boot by following up back-to-back braces with three clinical finishes at Molineux.
Abraham’s first goal was a classic poacher’s finish; the second an expert header from an inviting Marcos Alonso cross. However, his third hinted at a forward of real and rare quality.
Abraham produced a wonderful first touch to control Jorginho’s lofted pass into the Wolves third. Then, he showed his impressive strength in holding off Conor Coady before showcasing his blistering turn of pace and lethal finishing by blazing past the Wolves skipper and firing low into the net.
Tellingly, Abraham didn’t even celebrate his hat-trick goal as enthusiastically as Fikayo Tomori’s opener. The striker, like everyone else clad in blue, had been blown away by the defender’s sublime 25-yard curler.
Abraham stretched his arms out and sprinted some 30 yards to celebrate his fellow academy graduate’s goal in front of the delirious Chelsea supporters.
Abraham already knew how good it felt to score for Chelsea. But this was a particularly special moment for Tomori; he hadn’t scored for the Blues since Under-8s level!
That Mason Mount also got on the scoresheet – meaning all of Chelsea’s goals so far this season have been scored by former youth-team players – only added to the feel-good factor for Chelsea. This has been truly a team that the Chelsea fanbase can connect with.
Lampard, thus, deserves the utmost credit for trusting in the youngsters, even if his hand may have been forced a tad.
However, the former Blues midfielder should also be commended for switching to a 3-4-3 formation for the trip to Wolves.
They may have shipped another two goals but, for the first time this season, Chelsea controlled an entire match.
The system switch even evoked memories of Antonio Conte’s decisive change to the same formation in 2016. It has been highly unlikely that Lampard embracing 3-4-3 will spark a 13-game unbeaten run that will end in a Premier League title.
However, this was welcome progress after four games of obvious vulnerability and uncertainty. Chelsea had this game wrapped up by the break.
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Obviously, Wolves’ two late goals showed why nobody should be getting carried away.
However, this was an important win for Lampard and his players ahead of their Champions League opener, against Valencia, and the visit of Premier League leaders Liverpool.
Those two crunch clashes can now be approached with optimism. Chelsea have three more points, a new formation and the most in-form striker in the Premier League.