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‘Abraham can break Chelsea’s No. 9 curse’ – Sutton backs academy graduate to shine as striker

The former Blues forward is optimistic the youngster can avoid the pressure that has seen others struggle up front at Stamford Bridge

Former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton is full of hope that Tammy Abraham will be given the chance to shine as the club’s new No. 9.


The 21-year-old looks set to get his chance this season and he has already netted under new manager Frank Lampard in pre-season against Barcelona.


With Chelsea unable to bring in a new striker this summer due to their transfer ban, Abraham has been handed the No. 9 shirt, which has often been a burden for previous Blues frontmen in the Premier League era.


Andriy Shevchenko, Alvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuain, Fernando Torres and Radamel Falcao are just some of the high-profile names to have worn the No.9 but they all failed to live up to expectations.


Sutton joined Chelsea in a £10 million deal in 1999, but lasted just one season as the Blues’ No. 9 at Stamford Bridge before being sold to Celtic.


However, Sutton thinks that Abraham will be given more leeway due to his age and having come through the academy as he battles Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi for a starting spot in Lampard’s team.


“If you talk about Abraham and the No. 9 jersey and myself and the No. 9, I had the additional issue of going for big money,” said Sutton, who is a Verdict columnist this season. “The same happened for Fernando Torres, Shevchenko, Morata and others.


“When you have a big fee, you are expected to have a goal return. Abraham doesn’t have that. That’s evident. He has been nurtured and developed. There will still be an expectation on him to perform, but the fact that Chelsea hasn’t laid on big money for him might help.


“It only takes you so far. Chelsea have aspirations but maybe just not as big as in previous seasons due to circumstances. When you are competing with Giroud and Batshuayi, that is a healthy competition. If I am honest, I think that most people want to see Abraham develop.


“As a young player at Chelsea, you will be looking at it and saying we are going to get an opportunity. It didn’t happen under previous managers so maybe this is a turning point or it seems to be a turning point.


“Giroud is in his 30s. For Batshuayi, he did enough last time for Chelsea fans to have faith in him, but I think Abraham is the favoured one. Batshuayi with something to offer, too.


“The likes of Aguero at Manchester City is someone you would take over any of the Chelsea strikers, of course. Abraham has been shown faith in terms of being thrown the No. 9 shirt, which has burdened a lot of players, myself included and other Chelsea No. 9s. Frank rates him highly and he is going to get this opportunity.”


Chelsea finished 26 points behind champions Manchester City last season and it is a tall order for new manager Lampard to claw back the gap in a single season as the club operate under a transfer embargo.


Sutton thinks that his former club are set for a battle for fourth place once again and he hopes that fans can be patient as the club go through yet another transitional period after also losing star man Eden Hazard.


“Do I think they can challenge Manchester City and Liverpool? Absolutely not. I think there is a rung of four clubs: Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester United who I think will be fighting it out for the other two places in the top four again.


“They are not going to compete for the title if we are honest, but Conte won it from 10th, which is amazing stuff. Hazard did carry Chelsea last season, whether we like it or not. Third place and Europa League, people will say Sarri did well, but things weren’t right there.


“There were always murmurings behind the scenes. There were questions whether the players liked the manager. There was the Kepa Arrizabalaga incident. It never seemed like the manager was going to be there long term.


“It seemed to be one of the worst-kept secrets ever when he left. Now, because of this situation and the transfer embargo, Chelsea have to go again. I think that there will be patience for Frank. He has taken Jody Morris with him.


“Chelsea fans will probably accept that they aren’t going to compete for a top-two place this season. That still doesn’t mean that they can’t perform strongly and fight for a place in the top four.


“I think it is a season for the first time in the Roman Abramovich era where I don’t look at Chelsea as a team who can seriously challenge for a title.”

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