It was the 29th of November 2018, a night under the glorious lights of Stamford Bridge as Chelsea hosted PAOK in the Europa League. At around the hour mark of what turned out to be a 4-0 drubbing, a young English boy cut in from the left and drilled the ball into the back of the net, scoring his first goal of the season and Chelsea’s third of the game.
Three months later, that young Englishman scored again, followed by three in his next three Europa League games to help Chelsea secure a place in the Europa League Quarter-Finals. That Chelsea side went on to win the Europa League that season, while Olivier Giroud finished as top scorer of the competition and Eden Hazard was named the player of the tournament. However, there was one player whose four goals and two assists had grabbed the attention of managers and fans worldwide. Yeah, it was fair to say that Callum Hudson-Odoi had arrived.
Just as things were looking up for this young star, as fans began chanting his name, as the footballing world began to take notice, as March turned into April and April was turning into May, everything came to a grinding halt. In a game against Burnley toward the end of April, Hudson-Odoi went down holding his Achilles and it would be 141 days before he would be available for selection again. Especially frustrating for the fans and the player himself was the fact that his steady stream of starts was delayed by then manager, Maurizio Sarri.
Chelsea legend, Rob Green summed up fans’ thoughts perfectly as he stated that the players couldn’t believe that Hudson-Odoi wasn’t starting week in, week out after watching him in training. The injury came just as he began establishing himself as a starter, making it a tougher pill to swallow.
Since his return, it was evident that the injury had a clear impact on the young Englishman. He had lost a lot of the explosive pace which was a characteristic of his game, making it much tougher for Callum to beat defenders one-on-one to deliver a pin-point cross or take one of those classic low driven shots that we have seen him take time and time again. Being optimistic, one can assume that one of two things will happen: Odoi regains a lot of his pace through rehabilitation and gives Lampard an even bigger selection headache. The other is he doesn’t regain his pace but adapts his game as Rooney did.
However, Chelsea fans’ biggest fear is that all Hudson-Odoi will be remembered as yet another wonder-kid who didn’t make it in the big leagues. With him competing against the likes of Ziyech, Pulisic, and Werner for a starting spot, he certainly has his work cut out for him. There were rumors about a possible loan move and dealing with him in the same way that Real Madrid dealt with Martin Odegaard (a one to two year loan) might help get the young man’s career back on track. Of course, being only 20, it is entirely possible that we may be overthinking this all and Hudson-Odoi could be back to his best soon.
Now, a year on, the attitude towards Callum Hudson-Odoi has changed completely. From testing positive for Coronavirus to breaking quarantine rules to a rape allegation, this year has certainly been testing for the young Englishman. He has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons and while he has done well off the pitch recently, it is on the pitch where he needs to start performing consistently again.
He had three goals and six assists last season which isn’t bad by any means, especially for a 19-year-old, but it is once again, the consistency that has worried a lot of fans. We see occasional glimpses of the raw talent but churning out good performances week after week will be important if Callum aims to start for this stacked Chelsea side. Turning down Bayern Munich and committing his future to the club was a huge move for him and all that is left now is for him to show an improvement in mentality.
Almost as criminal as the comparisons to Iwobi and Nketiah, the disrespect Hudson-Odoi gets from rival fans and even some of the Chelsea fan base is appalling. Having seen glimpses of his pure talent and playing under a manager that has been silencing critics his entire career, it all looks set up for Callum Hudson-Odoi. Whether he does it and carries on the Chelsea tradition of shutting people up, remains to be seen.
Written by- Ayush (@papigonzaga)
Cover photo- whitneygazette.co.uk