After Chelsea’s 4-0 victory against 10-man PAOK Salonika in the Europa League on Thursday night, Callum Hudson-Odoi will be the name on every Chelsea fans’ lips following his brilliant showing.
Hudson-Odoi, who has recently turned 18, put in a Man of the Match performance, scoring his first ever senior goal and later setting up Alvaro Morata.
While manager Maurizio Sarri was impressed, he was reluctant to suggest the youngster now deserves a start in the Premier League, which did little to restore confidence in the fans that the club’s academy prospects may finally have a chance of making the first team.
He said: “I think he played very well but the type of match was for his characteristics as they had 10 men after seven minutes.
“We only needed to play in the offensive phase, he’s very able to do this but I want to see him in a match when he has to play in a defensive phase.”
Whether Sarri was just trying to protect Hudson-Odoi from the constant media attention that comes with being England’s ‘next big thing’ is up for debate, but Chelsea fans can be forgiven for any pessimism, especially after the number of young players that have left the club following numerous loan spells in order to get first team football.
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Whilst Sarri has been praised for transforming Chelsea into a fast-flowing, attacking team, question-marks still remain over his rotation policy. In fact, in the 13 Premier League games that’ve been played this season, only a total of 14 Chelsea players have started. This is scarily similar to his previous two years at Napoli, where he handed 30 starts or more to at least 10 players in each campaign.
Not only does this hint that Chelsea may suffer from the similar late season slumps that were evident during Sarri’s time in Naples, but it may be a cause for concern for any Chelsea fringe players hoping they can work their way into the squad.
With a starting berth at Chelsea looking unlikely this season and only 18 months left on his current deal, Hudson-Odoi may look to leave Chelsea if he can’t be assured the game time he wants.
The Sun were reporting earlier this week that European heavyweights Bayern Munich are said to be interested in a deal, and after the success that fellow young lions Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson have had with their Bundesliga exploits, Germany may be the perfect stage for him to develop.
For now, Hudson-Odoi is a massive prospect for Chelsea, and one they’ll be hoping to keep their hands on. But this season will be crucial as to whether he can defy the odds and break into the starting XI or whether he’ll be another name on the long list of youngsters farmed out on loan by the Blues.