Tammy Abraham believes close working relationships and honest conversations with those around him at Cobham are helping him improve into a complete centre-forward for Chelsea.
The 23-year-old has five goals in all competitions so far this season for the Blues but it is his overall development that has impressed boss Frank Lampard the most, with his hold-up play, stretching defences by running in behind, leading the press from the front and creating for others all drawing praise.
Excluding penalties, his record of goals per 90 minutes in the Premier League is better than anyone else at the club (of those to have played more than half the available minutes) and he is currently averaging a league goal or assist every 136 minutes.
Despite the outside perception that summer investment in the squad might cost the striker his place in the team, Abraham has featured in all but two of our 17 games to date this season, sitting out the midweek win in Seville and the opening-day visit to Brighton.
Prior to the Spanish trip, he had started six matches in a row. Therefore, it is no surprise to hear that he’s enjoying his football and relishing the chance to build on-pitch relationships with new team-mates.
‘I feel good,’ reports our number nine as we look ahead to the weekend action. ‘We have a new team, fresh squad, a team full of winners and we want to do well. We drive each other and all want the best from each other so it’s been good so far.
‘We’re satisfied because we know we’re still a new team. We’re still learning about each other but we can’t get carried away because it’s just the beginning. We have to continue like this and keep doing our best as a team.’
Given he made his Blues debut over four-and-a-half years ago, it is easy to forget that Abraham is still a relative novice in striking terms, having turned 23 back in October. At the same age, Didier Drogba was still at Le Mans in the French second division and Jamie Vardy was playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels. Abraham already has over 20 goals for Chelsea but he knows there is plenty of room for improvement in his game.
‘There are still a few things that I’m trying to work on,’ he admits. ‘I’m very tall so I know I can score more headers and I want to improve my hold-up play, which is vital because sometimes a team needs the striker to hold the ball up so they can all get forward.
‘I think I’ve got good feet for a tall guy and I know where the goal is. I’m always in and around the right places to try and get a shot off.’
A desire for self-improvement is only as useful as the conditions one finds themselves in to achieve it and, with Lampard as his coach, Abraham can lean on a man with vast experience at the very pinnacle of the game, as well as someone who trusts in him hugely.
‘He tells me just to keep working as hard as I can,’ the striker says of his boss. ‘He knows the goals are there so he encourages me to work on the other side of my game. I’ve been a player always so focused on scoring goals that sometimes I forget to do the other stuff so it’s about learning that.
‘The goals will always come when I work hard. I know I’ve done well but it’s about kicking on from here and pushing myself to the limit.’
Another man Abraham is watching and listening to at Cobham is Olivier Giroud, his attacking colleague. It was testament to the close relationship between the pair, and the collective spirit of the group, to see them embrace so warmly when the Frenchman came off following his four-goal haul in Seville in midweek.
Similarly, with empty stadiums for the past few months, Giroud’s voice can be heard above most others, bellowing out encouragement for his young rival. Away from the pitch, constructive criticism is offered and accepted.
‘Of course, I learn a lot from him,’ adds Abraham. ‘He’s someone I grew up watching on TV so it’s great for me to be training with him now every day. I like to watch him and steal some ideas to add to my own game. I look at the way he holds the ball up and try to add parts of his game to mine.
‘He gives me advice all the time. We were on the plane back from Newcastle the other day and I asked him what he thought of my header that the keeper saved. He gave me good criticism and things I can work on to score more headers.’
Whether Giroud or Abraham leads the line against Leeds United this evening remains a tough choice for Lampard but, whoever is handed that task, Abraham expects a tough test regardless. He knows Marcelo Bielsa’s side well from encounters in the Championship and has been impressed with how they have taken to life in the top flight.
‘They’re a very good team,’ he states. ‘I was a bit too young the last time we played them in the league [16 years ago] but I’ve experienced playing against them in the Championship. They were a good side then but they’ve levelled up as they’ve come into the Premier League.
‘It’s two big teams, two teams that are playing well and want to win. It’s going to be tough but we have to go out there and believe, keep that confidence in the team and try everything to win the game.’