EPL

Abraham urged to 'step up' as Chelsea draw a blank against Spurs

By Sports Desk November 29, 2020

A point gained, or two lost? Both Chelsea boss Frank Lampard and Tottenham counterpart Jose Mourinho felt their teams could have won a London derby that was big on pre-match hype but lacking in clear-cut chances.

"That was a game where we respected them and they respected us," Mourinho told Sky Sports after the Stamford Bridge stalemate. A little too much respect, perhaps.

The Premier League title hopefuls combined to manage four shots on target in a quickly forgettable contest that, like a loaf missing yeast, failed to rise.

Lampard, meanwhile, reflected on a game where his team had the "handbrake a tiny bit up", even if a seventh clean sheet in nine outings shows they have some momentum to work with while parked nicely in third place in the table.

One of the few openings came Chelsea's way as the capital clash neared a welcome conclusion, substitute Olivier Giroud not converting in added time when up against fellow Frenchman Hugo Lloris.

Tammy Abraham watched on from the home bench as the man who had replaced him proved unable to grab a late winner. Abraham had moments to make a mark on proceedings before being replaced, only to fluff his lines on the big stage.

There were a pair of inviting crosses from Reece James in the second half that were missed, while another delivery from Timo Werner – playing from the left in a front three – went begging.

It summed up a frustrating outing for Abraham, whose 79 minutes on the pitch included four shots – none of which hit the target – along with 14 passes (he completed just 57 per cent of them) and 27 touches, a number only one better than his own team's goalkeeper, Edouard Mendy.

The England international was a key figure in a successful first campaign under Lampard, scoring 15 league goals, but such exploits only lead to increased expectations.

As former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink pointed out during Sky Sports' post-match coverage, the bar has been raised. If 2019-20 felt like a free swing for Lampard and his young squad, that early promise, coupled with substantial investment in the squad, has increased the pressure on all at the club.

"He has to improve in those moments. He did ever so well last year when he came in, for half of the season he was a breath of fresh air, scored a lot of goals," Hasselbaink said of Abraham, who has started four games in a row in the league.

"Second half of the season he had it tough, but it's normal because he's a young boy, but this season he needs to step up. With his stature, his ability, he should do better and score more goals and score more important goals."

Abraham has three league goals so far in 2020-21, averaging one every 182 minutes. That compares unfavourably to last season, when he managed to score every 148 minutes.

When it comes to big chances, the numbers are trending in the right direction. Last term he missed 22 such opportunities, but he has converted two of the four that have come his way so far in this campaign.

Yet it is perhaps not too surprising that Abraham did not capitalise on James' delicious deliveries against Spurs, having scored just four of his 18 top-flight goals from crosses. Still, such openings cannot afford to be passed up now that the spotlight is more intense, both due to Werner's arrival from RB Leipzig and amid talk of a title tilt.

"Sometimes I wonder if he watches clips of himself after the game, because sometimes his movement can be better, his hold-up can be better. He needs to keep on improving," Hasselbaink - who scored 69 times in the Premier League during his Chelsea career - added.

Lampard was rewarded for showing faith in Abraham in his first year; now the striker must push on if he wants to make sure he is not left behind.

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