It was back in October when Thomas Tuchel laid down the challenge for Callum Hudson-Odoi.
“The only person who can decide this and answer this question is Callum,” was Tuchel’s response to a question asking whether the fringe youngster could revive his Blues career with the chance to start in his favoured left-wing role.
“It’s as easy as that. Is there a turning point? OK, he needs to prove it. He needs to play the next 250 games on the highest level and then that was the turning point. But is it a turning point if he does a brilliant match tomorrow? No.”
The day following those comments Hudson-Odoi would start and score his first Premier League goal of the season in the 7-0 rout of Norwich City.
That started a run of games where the winger was able to showcase his abilities in his most natural position, and soon he was impacting games.
Consistently creating chances for others whilst looking a goalscoring threat, netting the third in the 4-0 win over Juventus.
A positive COVID test ruled him out of the last three games, but a start away to Aston Villa gave Hudson-Odoi an instant chance to prove once more why he can be relied upon by Tuchel.
Although a lot was made of Tuchel’s animated frustration over Hudson-Odoi losing the ball after a needless flick when a simpler pass was required, his overall performance was impressive.
His darting run into the box won Chelsea their first penalty of the evening when Matty Cash lunged in to hand Martin Atkinson a simple decision.
And more importantly, his perfectly floated cross found the head of Romelu Lukaku to score the vital second goal which gave Chelsea a lead they didn’t surrender.
Finding the best goalscoring form of Lukaku is vital for Chelsea and Tuchel in the second half of this season, especially if the European Champions have any hope of catching a rampant Manchester City who they face next month.
Many supporters have been crying out to see Hudson-Odoi on the left-wing paired with Lukaku and their wish proved a devastating combination on Boxing Day.
Every good forward needs a reliable creator and Hudson-Odoi could provide a similar connection that Cesc Fabregas had with Diego Costa which helped transform Chelsea’s title ambitions under Jose Mourinho.
Fabregas and Costa formed a freakishly strong bond despite barely playing alongside each other before signing for Chelsea in 2014.
Tuchel has frequently altered his attacking trio since August, a lot of that due to the fitness of players but also because of their inconsistent form.
Since late October, Hudson-Odoi has shown consistency to his end product which had been doubted given his regularly peripheral role under several head coaches at Stamford Bridge after his breakthrough in 2019.
Four assists and two goals to his name is not bad given he did not play a minute of Premier League football in the first three weeks of the season.
Digging a little deeper, the academy graduate ranks eighth in The Analyst’s xA (Expected Assist) table for the 2021/22 Premier League season. Matching Jack Grealish for chances created per 90 minutes with 2.48, and being the highest in the top ten players for chances created per 100 passes with 7.51.
That is within the context of only 690 league minutes played so far, the second-lowest in the top ten.
“Hudson-Odoi was outstanding today, one of his very best performances.” was Tuchel’s glowing praise of the 21-year-old after his influential display against Villa.
“He was involved. He overcame some obstacles today and some adversity. There was a big game a very important game from him. Also we took a risk because he only just came back from Covid.”
Back in the summer, there were strong rumours Hudson-Odoi could have departed on loan given frustration over a lack of opportunities. It felt then like the winger’s once-promising story was stuck in a loop of false dawns and persistent setbacks.
Chelsea had turned down a £70m bid from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2020 according to The Guardian for Hudson-Odoi after rejecting an initial approach from the German club in 2019.
But slowly the narrative has changed and Hudson-Odoi is proving he can be relied upon at vital points of the season.
He might be far from the 250 game mark set by Tuchel, but performances like the one he showed against Aston Villa will set him on the right path.
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Source by Football London