“What a win!” the visibly emotional Roma striker enthused after Saturday’s 4-1 victory at Atalanta. “What. A. Win. I don’t know what else to say.”
His mixture of joy and disbelief was unsurprising.
Roma had just routed one of Serie A’s in-form sides in their own backyard. It was their first statement win of the season, too.
For months, coach Jose Mourinho had been fielding questions about when the Giallorossi would finally beat one of the league’s big boys.
They were always likely to get there eventually, of course, but nobody expected them to run riot in Bergamo.
As Abraham admitted, “A lot of people doubted us, said it was Mission: Impossible for our team, but this is by far one of the best wins we’ve had this season.”
A lot of people had doubted him too.
Roma had spent €40 million (£34m/$47m) to sign him from Chelsea during the summer – the most expensive acquisition of Serie A’s summer transfer window by some distance.
It was quite the investment by a cash-strapped club in a 23-year-old with just 26 Premier League goals to his name.
The deal is beginning to look like a masterstroke by Roma, though, and a mistake by Chelsea.
That’s not to say that Abraham has found it easy in Italy; far from it, in fact. But the challenge is bringing the best out of him.
He began brightly, earning praise for his industry, movement, and unselfishness, but he wasn’t enjoying much fortune in front of goal.
He was hitting the woodwork more than the back of the net and Abraham admitted himself that he hadn’t expected it to be quite so tough.
“Players are very smart and defending is very important in the Italian style of play,” he told The Telegraph in November.
Roma’s New No.9 Would Require A Period Of Acclimatisation
“In England, we’re so used to attack, attack, attack, so, for me, it’s about learning the other way.”
Luckily, he had Jose Mourinho to teach him; the master of ‘the other way’.
The Portuguese had played a pivotal role in convincing Abraham, who was keen on joining Arsenal, to move to Rome, convinced that he was more than capable of filling the void left by Edin Dzeko upfront.
Mourinho, though, was well aware that Roma’s new No.9 would require a period of acclimatization, time to adjust to what the 56-year-old called “a different type of football”.
After all, Abraham had swapped the European champions for the seventh-best team in Serie A last season.
“Tammy was playing for a team that always dominated and a striker is only there to score goals,” Mourinho told Sky Sport Italia.
“In Italy, it’s important the striker has to work for the team as well, to press the opposition center-backs and at the same time start the defense from there.
“It is a need he was unaccustomed to but he is absorbing this, and the concept of working for the team. I am happy, as he is improving a great deal.”
There’s no disputing that claim. The numbers don’t lie.
After netting just twice in his first 11 Serie A appearances, Abraham now has four goals in his last six outings.
Overall, he has struck 12 times in 24 appearances and has 11 goal involvements (scored nine, assisted two) in his past 10 games for club and country.
After his double at Atalanta, the Gazzetta Dello Sport hailed the arrival of the “true Tammy”, praising him for not only his two-goal haul but his incredible influence on Roma’s game.
“He lifts the team,” Fabio Bianchi wrote in his match ratings, “he sparks (Nicolo) Zaniolo, he fights and even if he loses quite a few balls, he’s involved in every action.”
Mourinho is now adamant that Abraham can end his debut season in Serie A with at least 20 goals to his name, even if he was once again at pains to point out after the Atalanta game that the forward has other responsibilities.
“A center-forward for us cannot just focus on scoring goals, he needs to do other work too,” the two-time Champions League winner told DAZN.
“It’s important to have a reference point who wins duels with people like (Jose Luis) Palomino, (Berat) Djimsiti, and (Rafael) Toloi. Abraham has improved so much in that sense, but I am sure he will score goals too.”
Mourinho, though, remains focused on adding an edge to Abraham’s play, and not just in terms of clinical finishing.
He Still Has A Long Way To Go To Prove Himself
He told the striker he was too nice on the field, that he needed to be meaner, nastier or, as Abraham summed up his coach’s advice, “just be a monster, really”.
“It’s not always about being nice on the pitch,” the now-24-year-old told The Telegraph. “You need that character; you need that presence to frighten defenders and I think that’s something I’m learning and getting better at.”
Abraham, by his own admission, is not there yet, in any sense. He still has a long way to go to prove himself a truly world-class striker.
But his progression is clear and obvious, and it’s easy to understand why some Chelsea fans are now wondering why this homegrown hero was allowed to leave, particularly with their team struggling to score goals.
The colossal £98m ($130m) summer signing of Romelu Lukaku obviously meant Abraham would see little game time this season.
After all, Abraham had barely played at all following Thomas Tuchel’s appointment as Blues boss in January anyway, even though Timo Werner and Kai Havertz were struggling horribly to score goals.
Abraham Had Every Right To Feel Unhappy With His Lack Of Opportunities
He was afforded just two starts by the German and hauled off at half-time in both games.
And yet, in spite of the fact that he didn’t play a minute of Champions League football under Tuchel, Abraham still finished the season as Chelsea’s joint-top scorer, with 12 goals. And that after netting a club-high 18 goals in 2019-20.
To his credit, Tuchel admitted himself that Abraham had every right to feel unhappy with his lack of opportunities.
“Maybe it was my fault not to push him,” the former Paris Saint-Germain boss told reporters in August, “not to trust him on the same level I maybe trusted other players.”
It’s certainly hard not to wonder if Chelsea, who have drawn their past two Premier League games, scoring one goal in the process, might have been better served holding on to their most prolific forward over the previous two seasons.
The Blues’ top scorer this term is Mason Mount, while Lukaku and Werner have just five goals apiece in all competitions.
At the very least, the versatile Abraham would surely have served as a better understudy for Lukaku – who has struggled for form and fitness since returning to Stamford Bridge – than the maddeningly inconsistent Werner.
The Londoners did insert a £68m ($90m) buy-back clause in Abraham’s Roma contract – a tacit acknowledgment of his undoubted potential – but he certainly won’t be returning any time soon to solve their problems upfront.
And besides, Chelsea’s attacking issues will presently be of little concern to Abraham, who will just be hoping to maintain his rich vein of form when resurgent Roma host Sampdoria on Wednesday evening.
He’s always maintained that he isn’t motivated by revenge or trying to secure a return to Stamford Bridge.
Indeed, in his very first press conference, he insisted that his focus wasn’t on proving Chelsea “wrong” for selling him, but rather showing that Roma was right to sign him.
Right now, though, he’s actually doing both.