Chelsea will consider selling Tammy Abraham this summer for a fee of £40,000,000.
The report from The Telegraph’s Matt Law says that the Blues will look to move on Abraham as well as Olivier Giroud, given both forwards have failed to impress new manager Thomas Tuchel.
With Liverpool in need of offensive reinforcement in the summer transfer window, a move for the 23-year-old England international, provided Chelsea would do business with a rival club, could make sense.
Since the 2016/2017 season, Jurgen Klopp has used Roberto Firmino as his central striker. The Brazilian may wear the number 9 shirt, but his role much more reflects the responsibility of an attacking midfielder or — in traditional footballing parlance — a number 10.
Firmino drops deep to act as a link that glues the midfield to the attack where Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah — despite playing from wider positions — provide the attacking thrust in central areas, in the manner of traditional forwards.
The system — where Trent Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson provide the width and much of the creative incision — has worked spectacularly well with Liverpool, among other trophies, winning both the Premier League and Champions League.
But a move for Abraham could give the Reds the scope to evolve and swap their tried and trusted 433 formation with the 4231 shape that Klopp has been turning to — mostly at the end of games, but sometimes from the start — on a more frequent basis in recent weeks.
In the 1-1 draw against Newcastle at Anfield recently, the home team lined up with all of Jota, Mane, Salah, and Firmino in the same team. The result suggests this brave selection didn’t work, but the truth is that Liverpool would have won by a huge margin if it wasn’t for the fact they spurned several golden chances after repeatedly cutting the visitors open.
Firmino operated as the number 10 and the Brazilian put in one of his best performances in recent weeks, showing spatial awareness, intelligence, and a sharp passing game to supply his fellow attackers with a steady supply of openings.
Hypothetically, Abraham — who scored 15 Premier League goals in his first season at the highest level of English domestic football — would have thrived in such circumstances.
The rangy forward is quick, a dead-eyed finisher, and with 13 career goals via headers to date is capable of being a regular aerial threat and attacking crosses, an element the Reds lack among their forward stock. The England international registered a non-penalty expected goals figure of 0.61 last season — placing him, per FBRef stats, in the 94% percentile for forwards across Europe’s top 5 leagues in that metric — which, extrapolated across a 38 game league season, means he would be expected to notch 23 league goals based on the quality of chances he finds himself on the end of.
An area where Abraham lacks — and this is perhaps the reason why Tuchel doesn’t appear keen on keeping the Chelsea academy product at the club — is his ability to link the play and to create opportunities for teammates. Whereas Firmino is a facilitator, the Englishman works best as the focal point — or the pointy end — of the attack.
Abraham only registered an expected assist figure of 0.6 per 90 last season, which is only in the 13% percentile for his striking compatriots. This is something that the English/Nigerian forward will have to work on, but — at 23 and potentially under the stewardship of the proven coaches at Liverpool — time is most definitely on his side.
At Borussia Dortmund, Klopp primarily played a 4231 formation with Robert Lewandowski leading the attacking line. Mario Gotze — as well as Shinji Kagawa and Ilkay Gundogan — took the responsibility of feeding the legendary Polish striker with chances and this could be replicated at Liverpool.
It’s not to compare Lewandowski, one of the best players to lace a pair of boots in the last two decades, to Abraham, but there are similarities in terms of style between the players — especially the Dortmund iteration of the Poland international — and Klopp has shown by his success in the Bundesliga that he can fit a focal point forward in without compromising on his preferred gegenpressing style.
For a more recent example, you only have to look at Bayern Munich’s 2019/2020 domestic and European treble to see how playing with a traditional centre forward doesn’t necessarily have to mean that your wide players aren’t prolific as well, which will be music to the ears of Salah Jota and Mane. With Lewandowski hoovering up most of the goals, Serge Gnabry still notched 23 in all competitions and Thomas Muller chipped in with 12 in Hansi Flick’s high pressing 4231 aligned system.
With Firmino selflessly pressing and being a regular source of creativity and with Alexander Arnold and Robertson having a towering 6’3″ presence to aim their crosses at, the Chelsea number 9 could find a home he thrives in at Anfield.