Tammy Abraham was notably absent from the matchday squad against Manchester United today, and while most had preferred and would have expected Olivier Giroud to start after his heroics midweek, Tammy’s complete absence was surprising.
Official sources tried to play it off as an ankle knock — even though Abraham has already played since taking that knock against Newcastle two weeks ago — and while there’s probably some truth in that, they evidently forgot to inform Tuchel of this excuse.
Told Tammy Abraham's ankle not 100 per cent which is why he's not on the bench for Chelsea today #cfc— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) February 28, 2021
So the head coach, in his classic truthfully blunt style, explained Tammy’s situation as far as he sees it.
“At the moment he is only struggling with my decision. We have a strong squad [and] we have to make hard decisions. [...] It was about judging the alternatives that we have and we opted for Oli to begin, Timo on the bench. We have Kai who can play as a number nine so there was no need to bring a fourth number nine to the pitch.
“Things are difficult for [Abraham]. Things are not as easy as they should be for him in the moment and he will get full support. [...] He has to do exactly what he does, train well, be in a good mood and accept that he is a striker for Chelsea so this is the highest competition in Europe.
“When you play for Chelsea, it is a difficult decision I have to take and I am very very happy when I have to take them because it means everybody is on board. This is what you sign up for if you are a player for Chelsea, a coach for Chelsea that these moments arrive. There is no other answer to it other than to accept it and be there for tomorrow to fight for your place in the squad. I am sure he will do it.”
Abraham’s hardly alone in having to answer a challenge from the head coach.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, recently at the center of a bit of substitution drama, may have started both matches since that incident, but was withdrawn at half-time today — again raising some eyebrows in the process.
And while it looked Callum actually may have been carrying a slight injury, it turns out the decision was again more motivated by tactics.
“A little bit injured and the reason was a tactical decision and little injury combination because we switched to a back five in defence and covered the right position of Rashford in between Azpi and Reece James in the second half.
“It was not an option to use Callum there. That’s why it was a tactical choice.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
While that tactical switch enabled Chelsea to keep a clean sheet, it did not unlock our ability to score goals, which continues to remain a concern. Hudson-Odoi had been one of the few bright spots in our attack up to this point, though we clearly need the likes of Ziyech, Pulisic, and Havertz to also start finding their feet. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen today, despite Tuchel’s best intentions.
Hopefully Callum will be fit for Thursday, when we take on Liverpool at Anfield. As far as Tammy goes — who’s still our leading goalscorer but not seen as anything more than our “Cup striker” at the moment — with Klopp’s men most unlikely to sit in deep, perhaps it could be a chance for him as well?