Three preseason fixtures.
That’s all it took for the England Under-17 international Callum Hudson-Odoi to make such a strong impact on new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri that the Italian tactician moved on to confirm the 17-year-old winger will – unsurprisingly to all of those who saw him play – stay with the Blues for the 2018/19 campaign.
Chelsea opened their preseason in Perth, went on to lock horns with Inter Milan and go head to head against Arsenal last time out. Without the biggest first-team stars that have yet to report for duty following the World Cup, the stage was set for fringe players and upcoming youngsters to make their presence known.
And as Maurizio Sarri was beginning to shape the team play to his own liking, it was Callum Hudson-Odoi who took full advantage of the absence of Willian and Eden Hazard to emerge as the biggest positive of Chelsea’s preseason.
The lad is no stranger to the first team as he did make a couple of cameo appearances under Antonio Conte. Sarri rewarded him with three starting berths and it’s fair to say the youngster fully repaid the trust invested in him.
Hudson-Odoi provided the assist for Pedro’s winner against Perth while he displayed an amazing wing-play against the Serie A side Inter Milan. The experienced likes of Roberto Gagliardini or Kwadwo Asamoah were all taken aback and made to look like players in decline with pacy Hudson-Odoi running them ragged.
Gunning for Glory
The biggest impression the Chelsea youngster has made thus far came on Wednesday night in Dublin when one of the fastest and most sought-after right-backs in the world, Hector Bellerin, was seen chasing the Chelsea youngsters up the touchline for most of the game.
The Spaniard was left helpless against Hudson-Odoi who ended up winning a penalty and creating three other great chances for the wasteful Alvaro Morata in the first period alone. His constant races and impressive speed terrorised the Gunners who simply had no solution for the Chelsea starlet.
Hudson-Odoi was unlucky not to score a goal himself as he raced towards the goal on a Jorginho pass only to find himself being denied by an in-form Petr Cech.
Hudson-Odoi’s rich vein of form and opulent talent provide big hope for Chelsea.
The Blues are coming off from a disappointing season which saw the Stamford Bridge outfit lose flair and the excitement element. The Sarri-ball style of play is already announcing a more entertaining brand of football during the 2018/19 when Hudson-Odoi could seize the opportunity if he manages to harness his qualities and improve apparent imperfections in his game.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Callum Hudson-Odoi is a versatile footballer who has already demonstrated that he can operate in a number of roles.
The Chelsea graduate is blessed with pace, speed and agility which allow him to weave through the opposition with incredible ease. He’s proved to be an ambidextrous talent, equally adept using both of his feet.
During his three preseason outings for Chelsea, Hudson-Odoi was seen doing what Eden Hazard likes to do best – racing down the touchline and drifting in from the left. Once the Belgian superstar returns, Maurizio Sarri will have a difficult task ahead of him in terms of finding the best way to deploy the youngsters and aid his development.
As a boy of impressive quality, Hudson-Odoi used those three preseason matches to show that he also boasts great confidence and self-belief. Maurizio Sarri believes Hudson-Odoi ‘will be a very, very strong player’ in the future.
The England youngster has earned approval from his teammates as well, who are backing him to succeed. One thing Hudson-Odoi will need to work on is his first touch. He was seen struggling to calm receive and tame the ball down on a number of occasions against Arsenal. This would thrown him off the balance a bit at times but his quick thinking and lightning fast movement would then on compensate for any shortcomings.
Chelsea rate their youngster extremely highly and will try to tie him down on a long-term professional contract. Hudson-Odoi has been with Chelsea since the age of six and consistency could be the key in helping him become a valuable player for Chelsea, even in the immediate future.
Hudson-Odoi will certainly be hoping for a more prominent role this season as Chelsea attempt to launch a title challenge for which they currently stand at 12/1 to achieve.
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