The most adored jersey number after the iconic number seven has long been a curse for Chelsea Football Club. Over the years, the players who have donned the number nine jersey have met with a poor run of form, making things worse for their career and the club respectively. But the tides turned in the 2019/20 season for the Blues when young sensation Tammy Abraham decided to wear the esteemed number nine shirt.
Under the guidance of Frank Lampard, the 22-year-old has hit top form and is currently on a blistering goal-scoring streak, having scored eight goals in eight Premier League outings this season so far. The Chelsea striker joined the club’s academy system and was an integral part of the triumphant campaigns of Chelsea’s youth team in UEFA Youth League and FA Youth Cup in 2015 and 2016.
His ascent as the leading man for Chelsea has been astonishing, and after a phenomenal tenure on loan at Aston Villa in the previous season, where he netted 25 goals in 37 appearances in the league, the Blues had to bring him back. Although the fans were a little skeptical, the Blues manager Lampard wasn’t.
The Chelsea fans have endured the failure of players who have worn the infamous number nine jersey over the years. The form of Fernando Torres, the promise of Alvaro Morata and the strength of Gonzalo Higuain were all washed away when they put on the blue shirt with the number nine at the back.
Torres moved to Chelsea from Liverpool in the winter transfer window of the 2010/2011 season. His move from Merseyside wasn’t well received by fans at Anfield and his new life in London wasn’t something to cherish either. His goal-scoring rate dropped significantly — In his first full season at Stamford Bridge, the Spaniard netted just six goals in 32 appearances in the league.
There was a further dip over the next two seasons and Chelsea’s patience was wearing out quickly. He was loaned out to AC Milan in 2014 and was subsequently loaned to Atletico Madrid until the end of 2015/2016 season. Another Spaniard and Torres’ countryman, Morata, had to face similar wrath when he decided to go with the number nine.
After a successful endeavour with Real Madrid in the 2016/2017 season, Morata made a move to London. But what ensued was a drop in his speed, energy and work rate. A versatile player had to fight for a place in the starting 11 after a horrific 2017/2018 campaign with the Blues. In the subsequent season, he parted ways with Chelsea in the winter transfer window and moved to Atletico Madrid.
During his 16 appearances for the Blues in the league before his move to Madrid, he netted just five goals. The number nine curse had taken its toll on yet another star striker. It’s surprising to see Gonzalo Higuain’s name in the list. During his short stint at Stamford Bridge the previous season, the Argentinian was far from his best. His percentage of shots on target dropped drastically and his goal-scoring numbers took a hit. He could only manage five goals in 14 appearances in the league and moved back to Juventus.
Given the history of this jersey, Tammy’s decision to wear it was bold. The faith of Lampard has been repaid so far and the curse of the number nine shirt that Chelsea have endured for so long seems to be withering away.
Feature image courtesy: AFP/ Ian Kington