Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta insists Blues talisman Tammy Abraham has far more to offer than just goals.
Abraham headed his 11th Premier League goal of the season and laid on a fine winner for Mason Mount as Chelsea saw off Aston Villa 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
England hitman Abraham sits second behind Jamie Vardy in the race for the golden boot, but Spain full-back Azpilicueta insisted the 22-year-old is not even thinking about personal accolades.
“Not only is he scoring goals he is playing for the team, recovering the ball; he made a tackle in our own half that was an amazing effort for him,” said Azpilicueta.
“He made an assist as well. I am not just looking into his goals as a number because he is doing more than that.”
Asked if Abraham could win the golden boot award for the Premier League’s top scorer in his first full season in the division with Chelsea, Azpilicueta said: “No, he doesn’t talk about that. If he scores the most goals then the team will do better as well.
“It is something we are looking at as a team and I am confident that he can get many more goals because of the way he is working and improving since he started pre-season. It is amazing and he has the potential to go even higher.
“We know we are still in December with a lot of games but with his passion and hunger, he is capable of getting to the top, for sure.
“He is second after Vardy. Vardy is having an amazing season with a lot of goals and Tammy is just behind him so if he is there it is because he deserves to be.”
Abraham suffered a nasty-looking hip injury in Chelsea’s 2-2 Champions League draw in Valencia that forced him out of Saturday’s 1-0 home reverse to West Ham.
Boss Frank Lampard revealed he was still in pain on Tuesday as Chelsea handed the free-scoring striker a last-minute fitness test before facing Villa.
Abraham fired 26 goals in 40 matches in last year’s loan stint at Villa, and the away supporters chanted his name in continued gratitude at full-time in west London.
Azpilicueta hailed Abraham for his grit to shake off that troublesome hip complaint for a quickfire return that helped Chelsea get back to winning ways.
“His desire is amazing; when he was injured he wanted to come back as soon as possible.
“I think for him it was special to play against Aston Villa where he got promoted to the Premier League and where he had an amazing spell there.
“So for him, it was a special game. I am very happy for him because he showed that strength of character to play, score and get an assist. He was key for us.
“He showed his desire in pre-season to be a striker for Chelsea. It is something he has dreamt about and he worked for it all the way through the academy. He got his chance and is making the most of it.”
Villa boss Dean Smith insisted his side has the ability to challenge the league’s best, but must add extra consistency.
“We hung in there but that’s not what we’re about; we work hard but that’s what I expect,” said Smith.
“I feel we can be as good as teams like Chelsea but we have to be more consistent in our play to be able to do that.
“When we played with belief, we put them under pressure, but at times we sat up a little bit too much and allowed them to play.”