With youth finally seeing its chance at Chelsea, hopes are set high for Callum Hudson-Odoi who is set to return after the international break, having been sidelined through injury since April of this year. A cruel Achilles tendon injury forced the youngster to miss the summer and the start of this season. However, with his recovery seemingly ahead of schedule, we are expecting the imminent return of the winger very soon. In my opinion, this season will be an incredibly important one for a whole host of different reasons for the young man but first and foremost it will just be good to see him back playing football.
Turbulent First Season
Making the jump from youth football to senior football last season were his first steps upon his professional journey but it all wasn’t plain sailing. In football, it hardly ever is. Despite featuring early on under ex-Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, he was only really utilised in the cup competitions and in the early parts of the Europa League winning campaign.
However, he managed to be called up to the England senior squad in March, where he came on as a substitute making him the youngest player ever to make his debut in a competitive match for England aged 18 years and 135 days. Then a month later, Sarri handed him his first start in the league for Chelsea; where he became the youngest player to assist a goal on his first start for the club in the Premier League era.
Last season’s experience was mainly in the ‘less important’ games, but his first team exposure saw him feature 24 times for Sarri’s side last season, resulting in a respectable return of five goals and five assists. However, I thought he handled the top level really well considering he had to contend with testing conditions. He was in and out the team which never gave him a consistent run or a chance to fully settle in. Also, Chelsea as a team were very inconsistent, therefore he wasn’t coming into a team that was firing on all cylinders like a Liverpool or Manchester City. When he did play, he managed to look a genuine threat with his pace, skill and movement and certainly showed he has that ability.
I know what you’re thinking, he’s not even 19 yet, why is this season being described as incredibly important? After the somewhat crisis of the transfer request and supposed falling out with Sarri, this season serves as a fresh chance to move away from all that. With Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek both penning new deals as well as Tammy Abraham seemingly on the brink of also doing so, it’s seemingly not long until this one is a done deal. Especially with the promise of playing time and this new young, English contingent around him.
With Lampard’s willingness to embed youth in his Chelsea team through a combination of his own philosophy and the transfer ban sanctions, as soon as the English sensation is fit and ready, we should be seeing him and Pulisic as the starting wingers. Hopefully this spells the end of both Pedro and Willian as starters for Chelsea.
Last season, he showed that electric pace as well as his natural ability and confidence to take on full backs and cause problems. We just want to see him in those advanced positions as much as possible this season because he can be so dangerous one on one. The ability to cut inside or go onto his weaker foot combined with his fakes and quick feet result in a total nightmare for defenders. I’m excited for him to combine with the likes of Mount and Abraham who have started the season well. There is potential there for some very exciting and natural link up play with the other younger players
Having that link up with the other youth players is key with Mount, Loftus-Cheek, Reece James and Abraham all very familiar with each other from youth level with Chelsea to youth level with England. That’s key going forward for Lampard and hopefully for Chelsea’s long-term vision, for having a strong foundation of youth in this team to be part of this club for a long time. Lampard has spoken very highly of all our youth so far but he has mentioned the words ‘world class potential’ in relation to the winger. Still only 18, he has Champions League football to look forward to as well as the majority of September plus another eight months of football on top of that.
With Lampard’s style so far, Hudson-Odoi should fit right into this team and with a consistent run of games, I believe he will really benefit as he can build up that confidence of playing at this level on a regular basis. The experiences both domestically as well as against Europe’s elite will put him in good stead to help him develop. Having Pulisic and him on the wings gives us real pace and trickery and a real fresh look to our attack. Sarri’s comments last year about how Callum will be a top player but not for at least three or four years seem like a distant memory now as Lampard will continually give him chances which will only benefit the player and in turn, the team.