Armando Broja can become a fan favourite at Chelsea if he hits double figures. That’s an extraordinary position for a striker to be in at a Champions League club.
Ordinarily, when a striker of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s standing arrives at a club like Chelsea, it’s with at least a degree of fanfare. Social media will be awash with doctored pictures of said new player in club colours with innumerable comments from fans explaining why this guy will score more goals than some fraud playing for a rival, often with hilarious references to how many of that charlatan’s goals come from the penalty spot.
With that fanfare comes desperation for the player to do well – in Aubameyang’s case to score goals – to prevent feelings of regret at having made a mistake in the transfer market and embarrassment at having given them such a build-up.
When it comes to signing strikers, those are feelings Chelsea fans know all too well.
There comes a breaking point, when it’s obvious a new signing just isn’t going to work, at which you give up caring whether they play or not. For £100m man Romelu Lukaku that time came about three months into his return to Chelsea last season, but him openly not giving a shiny sh*t about the club played a big part in that. Usually, high-profile signings are given longer because there’s increased hope, disguised as expectation, that they will come good.
Aubameyang has scored more than a goal every two games in his career and got one every 99 minutes for Barcelona in the second half of last season. Chelsea striker curse aside, there’s no reason why he couldn’t replicate such form at Stamford Bridge. Yet it doesn’t feel as though Blues fans are particularly bothered either way.
Having a big-name signing sitting on the sidelines is usually a cause of great frustration for fans, but having not been particularly enthused by Aubameyang’s arrival in the summer, it feels as though the majority will happily watch their team grow with him a spectator.
That wouldn’t be the case if Thomas Tuchel were still in charge. Given the German boss had pushed to sign Aubameyang, the fans would have wanted to see him use and get the best out of the Gabon international. But there is no such pressure on Graham Potter, who has reportedly taken a shine to an alternative with greater potential than a 33-year-old former Arsenal striker to become a fan favourite.
Reports suggest Armando Broja will lead the line for Chelsea against Crystal Palace on Saturday with Potter ‘raving about the 21-year-old’s potential and ability to fit into his system’, as he looks to ‘implement a pressing style of play’.
Having impressed for Southampton last season there was concern among Chelsea fans that another academy product would be allowed to drift from the club in the summer window without a proper chance to prove themselves at Stamford Bridge. Broja stayed but the transfer rumours remain, with AC Milan among many credited with interest. Without significant game time this season he will surely be on his way.
His appearances from the bench have been fleeting so far, but he’s illustrated glimpses of the energy, power and ability to run with the ball which caught the eye of many suitors last season. In a team packed with expensive and talented players, Broja has a chance very few strikers with such limited experience could dream of: he could assert himself as the goalscorer for one of the biggest teams in Europe.
And let’s face it, it won’t take all that many goals for Chelsea fans to love him. Diego Costa was the last striker to score 20 Premier League goals for Chelsea in a season in 2016/17 and the last two campaigns have seen Mason Mount and Jorginho top the goalscoring charts with 10 and seven respectively.
Broja is in a unique position in playing for a Champions League club where double figures would be absolutely fine. And following many a Chelsea striker to have crumbled under an unidentifiable and all-consuming pressure that hampers their goalscoring exploits, Broja’s roll-with-the-punches attitude will stand him in good stead to reach and possibly surpass that target.
“For me there is not much pressure because I am playing football,” Broja said on the international break. “I have been playing football since I was three years old. I have no emotions. Play for fun, to win and to help the team. There is absolutely no pressure.”
Broja may find that changes in the coming weeks, but with such low expectations from Chelsea fans over what a good striker looks like, he’s right to feel “no pressure”. He can’t be as bad as what’s come before.