From bursting onto the scene in January 2018 to then earning an international call-up in 2019, Callum Hudson-Odoi is among a plethora of young, talented players in England.
Now let’s take it back to late January in the winter of 2018, during the FA cup fourth round tie against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge, the home of the West London Blues. A young 17-year-old came onto the scene after being used as a second half substitution. Many Chelsea fans were about to witness the dawning moments of Hudson-Odoi’s first competitive action for Chelsea, and at the time the team was under the leadership of the Italian, Antonio Conte.
There was definitely a sharp sense of excitement at The Bridge as 41,000 were in complete awe to witness the rapid pace and quick footwork of the teenager, and most importantly his ability to take on players one-on-one with such ease. Odoi’s array of qualities lead then Chelsea manager Conte to include Odoi into the 23 man match-day squad for the next league encounter against Bournemouth at home. Although his league debut did not result in victory as the Blues were defeated 3-0 by the cherries, a positive to take away from the dreadful defeat was the use and integration of academy players we were slowly seeing as Chelsea supporters.
We now look into the following season and recap what exactly the 18/19 season had in store for Hudson-Odoi.
The Blues changed up their personnel management appointing Italian Maurizio Sarri as the new head coach of Chelsea football club. With this new exciting addition, many more fans were eager to know how the Italian coach was going to deploy Hudson Odoi into his philosophy of football that he was trying to implement. In addition, this was a tipping point within the clubs identity, as it seemed that the tides were changing as Chelsea was very keen to hold onto the likes of Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus Cheek. At that moment, our prayers were finally answered for Chelsea fans.
As the season progressed, it became well known that Sarri intended to use our academy prospects more in the less pivotal games, such as the group stages of the UEFA Europa League. This eventually became a real breakthrough for the young England international, as he showcased his flair and rapid pace on of Europe’s most prestigious competitions. In his first start in the Europa league, Odoi registered his first goal for the senior team in a dominating home victory against the Greek opposition PAOK. At this point, Odoi was starting to make his presence in the team well known, and therefore he became a fan favourite, with chants being sang by the passionate, adoring Chelsea crowd. Whether it was at home in south-west London or away, there was a continuing growing support for the young wide forward.
However, as we approached the manic end to the 18/19 season in our pursuit for a top-four finish and a chance to grab silverware by winning the Europa league, Odoi suffered a serious injury. During Burnley’s visit to Stamford Bridge in April 2019, Odoi felt a discomforting feeling on the upper region of ankle and was later substituted off. It was made clear after the game that he sustained a season ending injury of a ruptured Achilles tendon. Now, at that specific point many questions were asked on whether he would be able to return and fulfil his potential that he was dubbed to achieve.
Since his return to first team action, there were immediate comparisons and debates as to whether Hudson-Odoi had proven himself as a genuine talent, such as the likes of his contemporaries Borussia Dortmund starlet Jadon Sancho and the young German attacker Kai Havertz of Bayer Leverkusen. In all honesty, the qualities that Hudson-Odoi provides to this Chelsea side are very useful, especially in the system that Frank Lampard is using to accommodate the likes of the fellow young stars, such as Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour. However, if we were to analyse and breakdown the numbers and contributions in Hudson-Odoi’s game, we can identify that there are areas of improvement to be made for him to be considered a generational talent.
According to One Football, and 17 League games this season, Odoi has registered only 4 assists and 1 goal, with the goal coming against Burnley in a 3-0 home victory earlier this year:
85% Pass accuracy
40% Shot accuracy
25 successful dribbles
I believe it is safe to say that Callum Hudson-Odoi has been a source of energy and most evidently a breath of fresh air within the last few seasons at the club. However, the figures don’t reflect or convey the impact that Hudson-Odoi has had for this Chelsea team. His early career has been halted at a point with a serious injury, and since recovery he has been a shadow of what he was prior to the ruptured Achilles tendon. We need to acknowledge that his abilities so far have been somewhat comprised because of the injury, yet the fact remains that there is still a strong sense of optimism that Odoi can reach those levels again.
Lastly, I personally believe that when it comes to young players it is important to not be too hard on them, and considering my ideology on patience with young players, I can confirm that I still believe in the potential that Odoi can reach. As were basing this take on the current season, before the suspension amid the coronavirus pandemic, Callum Hudson Odoi’s 19/20 has been a 5/10. Too many inconsistent spells at times, whether he is starting or coming off the bench, such that there seems to be lack of confidence or spark in his play. Most shockingly is that he has failed to really utilise his best ability, which is his rapid pace alongside with his trademark step-overs, hence why he has only achieved 25 successful dribbles. Once the domestic season resumes, hopefully he can regain that level of form and become an impact to this Chelsea side.
Edited by: Dan