Opinion: Tammy Abraham and AS Roma is Europe’s greatest love affair this season in a remarkable campaign
Tammy Abraham is the highest-scoring Englishman across Europe’s top five leagues and has become a source of infatuation for the passionate Roma fans. Pete Sharland takes a look at his incredible performance in the Rome derby that highlighted the connection he has with his new supporters in the Eternal City.
'I am not concerned' - Mourinho has no worries about Abraham
After his two goals (the first a textbook lesson in the importance of being in the right place at the right time for strikers) Abraham now has 23 goals in his first season in Rome. It is the most a Roma player has ever scored in his first season for the club, beating out Gabriel Batistuta and Vincenzo Montella who both scored 21. He is the third-highest scorer in Serie A with 15 goals (behind Ciro Immobile and Dusan Vlahovic, who both have 21) and he is the top scoring Englishman across Europe’s top five leagues.
But it’s about more than the goals. It’s about the relationship he has built up with the Roma fans. Just look at this.
You could see it at various stages during the game his role in getting the crowd growing. In the 15th minute Lazio’s Felipe Anderson tried to break down their right flank, but Abraham chased him back to near the half-way line, nipped in, took the ball and then drew the foul. The crowd roared their approval and Abraham got up and celebrated winning the foul, urging the crowd on.
A little over 10 minutes later, full-back Rick Karsdorp burst forward and won a free-kick wide on the right. Abraham celebrated that and went over to Karsdorp, giving the Dutchman a huge high five as he got up. In the second-half he was it again, urging the crowd to make more noise after winning a corner.
ROME, ITALY - MARCH 20: Tammy Abraham of AS Roma celebrates the victory after the Serie A match between AS Roma and SS Lazio at Stadio Olimpico on March 20, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Image credit: Getty Images
This is not something every player can do. It is a fine balance between hyping up the crowd and pissing them off. Only certain players have that rapport, and that has to be earned with hard work. That has something Abraham has always had. At the start of the season things weren’t going his way, it felt like he was always hitting the post or crossbar, but he kept working. And that was appreciated by the Roma fans.
So now, when it is all going right, they can come together and celebrate and enjoy the moment. There is an argument to be had that he has been embraced in a way he wasn’t by the Chelsea fans. Not to diminish the relationship he had with supporters at Chelsea, which was very good, it just feels more intense in Rome. With Chelsea it was like a proud parent-child relationship. Not the favourite child though, and probably not even the second-favourite given how much Chelsea fans love Mason Mount and Reece James. Maybe third-favourite, that sounds right.
But with Roma, it’s almost more than that. It is the sort of passion you get at the start of a relationship, it’s intense, it’s intoxicating, you just want more of it all the time. And that goes for the rest of us as well. It’s impossible to watch Roma fans booming his name across the Olimpico and to not want him to take another victory lap, or even better go out and play another 90 minutes.
The thing is, this nearly never happened. When it became clear Chelsea wanted to move on from him, Abraham had his sights set on a move to another Premier League club. By his own admission he wasn’t taking the potential of Roma too seriously, until manager Jose Mourinho called. Mourinho sold Abraham on the project he wanted to build at Roma, as well as the better climate in Italy!
ROME, ITALY - MARCH 20: Felix Afena Gyan and Tammy Abraham celebrate the victory after the Serie A match between AS Roma and SS Lazio at Stadio Olimpico on March 20, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images)
Image credit: Getty Images
Like every new relationship, there are ups and downs. Both for Abraham and Mourinho. Roma are a wildly inconsistent team and there is still not an overarching philosophy in the way that they play. For a team that spent so much last summer to be sixth in the league, eight points off fourth is not ideal. But in a competitive Serie A it is an occupational hazard, and it is the first year of the Mourinho era, he normally takes a little while to get going.
This is a club that hasn’t won the league since 2001, their last piece of silverware was the Coppa Italia in 2008. There is an overwhelming desire for relevancy again. That is why they pivoted from Paulo Fonseca to Mourinho. Not necessarily because Fonseca is terrible, but because of the gravitas he brings.
It may not work, in fact recent history with Mourinho suggests it almost certainly will end badly, but Roma are a club that have tried to be patient. Now is the time for taking swings. That means hiring Mourinho. That means bringing over a forward who has never played outside of England for a fee of €40 million. We don’t know where the journey with Abraham is going to go, but everyone right now is enjoying the ride.