Callum Hudson-Odoi: Chelsea injuries provide a chance to justify himself
Losing two of your main forwards in Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner to injuries at the same time is obviously a bad thing for Chelsea football club, but if there’s one player who could quietly be licking his lips it’s young Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Now 20 years old, the young winger remains one of English football’s brightest starlets, but there’s no denying that the hysteria surrounding him has diminished over the past few years mostly due to lack of playtime and not forgetting the bad injury he suffered a couple of years ago when his light was just sparkling to life.
Since Bayern Munich wanted to sign him for £35m in the summer of 2019, Hudson-Odoi has struggled for minutes under two different managers – Frank Lampard and now Thomas Tuchel – while a nasty Achilles injury has played its part as well.
Following Tuchel’s arrival, however, Hudson-Odoi has largely been healthy and yet had been restricted to just nine Premier League starts before Lukaku and Werner went down, with the boss’ early faith in him fading startlingly quickly.
Plenty of Chelsea supporters across the world have been crying out for Hudson-Odoi to be given some consistent minutes in attack just to prove what he can do, and with Lukaku and Werner both out, it’s time for the 20-year-old to justify that support as game time is inevitable for the youngster especially after his impressive performance against Norwich City, a match Chelsea ran riot with a 7-0 win at Stamford Bridge, Hudson-Odoi scoring once and assisting once, not forgetting his cross led to one own goal.
To Hudson-Odoi’s credit, he did exactly that in his first start of the spell without Werner and Lukaku. In the mauling of Norwich, he bagged a goal and forced another own goal from Max Aarons, but the problem is that, with all due respect, battering an awful Norwich side is hardly the sign of proving what you can do.
He should get the chance to maintain that form when Chelsea travels to Newcastle on Saturday, 30 October. Werner and Lukaku are both out, Christian Pulisic isn’t ready to return just yet and Hakim Ziyech’s performance against Southampton will have earned him a nice spell back on the bench.
That means the job of creating goals will be left to Hudson-Odoi, whose style of play is exactly what Chelsea has been crying out for over the past two years – effectively since talisman Eden Hazard left for Real Madrid in 2019.
Like the Belgian, Hudson-Odoi wants to take the game to his opponents. He wants to fly down the left wing, use his speed and trickery to burst past defenders, and get the ball in the box as soon as possible. Nobody else in Tuchel’s squad does that, well except Pulisic who has spent a better part of his Chelsea career in hospital than in the training pitch at Cobham.
A lack of creativity and link-up play with the strikers has been a huge problem for Chelsea for a while now. Not only do the Blues not have an elite playmaker – Ziyech has been a disappointment in that regard – but since Hazard left, they haven’t had a player who just wants to make something happen every time he gets on the ball.
It’s for that reason that the re-emergence of Ruben Loftus-Cheek has had fans so excited, but Hudson-Odoi is the real man for the job, and if he can steal the show against Newcastle, he’ll really send a message to Tuchel.
As Tuchel has long been insisting, Hudson-Odoi cannot rely on spurts of excellence and must put together a run of consistent performances to prove he can hang at this top level.
The boss wants 250 top games from Hudson-Odoi, towards whom he confessed to being harsh in the hope of steering the youngster to that elite level that most supporters know he is capable of.
With the minutes now coming his way, the ball is in Hudson-Odoi’s court. Each good performance will earn him another start, and Tuchel will happily keep him in the squad if the goal contributions keep coming up.
Newcastle is a vulnerable opponent and Hudson-Odoi should expect a good performance from himself. Get the job done, and a start against Burnley will be his reward. It’s as simple as that. Considering Chelsea’s recent performances at St James’ Park and all the jubilation surrounding Newcastle United, the match will not be a walk in the park for the visitors as they try to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table.
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