Unexpected wing-back Hudson-Odoi can be Tuchel’s academy poster boy
At this point, it feels as if Frank Lampard’s managerial career has been more heavily scrutinised than the Balkan Question.
As with so much in our polarised society, nuance has been conspicuous by its absence during the debate. According to which articles you read, or which social media accounts you follow, Chelsea have either shot Bambi or rid themselves of an over-promoted and out-of-his-depth manager.
Inevitably, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It’s laudable that Chelsea wish to break from their revolving managerial appointments, but Lampard did little to suggest he was the next Guardiola.
Yet the former manager must be credited with placing his trust in academy players. While some people instinctively dislike the battery-farm approach to youth development, Chelsea are currently blessed with a hugely talented generation of players.
It’s understandable that the club’s supporters feel protective over them and would be worried that only one started the match against Wolves, Thomas Tuchel’s first since replacing Lampard. But each individual decision makes sense; Mason Mount’s relegation to the bench may seem symbolic, but he must be protected from burnout during the most relentless of seasons.
Plenty of Chelsea fans prefer the qualities of Olivier Giroud over Tammy Abraham. Reece James, while the king of the corridor of uncertainty, is currently struggling for form and was replaced by another academy product anyway.
Much like discovering chocolate and chilli is a tasty combination, nobody had looked at Callum Hudson-Odoi before and decided he’d make a good wing-back.
But Tuchel is known for his innovation and starting Hudson-Odoi in what’s known around Stamford Bridge as the ‘Victor Moses role’ certainly raised a few eyebrows.
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s game by numbers vs. Wolves:
84% pass accuracy
35 final third passes
5 ball recoveries
4 tackles attempted
3 tackles won
2 chances created
2 shots [1 on target]
1 foul won
A great first impression. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/ep1pF3Y1H0
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 27, 2021
In the event, the 20-year-old’s performance was the highlight of a dull match. Making himself extremely busy across the length of the right flank, it was Hudson-Odoi’s low cross that created the first half’s clearest chance.
Had Giroud stuck the ball away, the mood music around Tuchel’s first game would have been significantly more positive.
Time and time again, the England international found the room to torment the Wolves defence with his direct running and close ball control.
But it was his defensive display that most impressed observers. Hudson-Odoi recorded an impressive number of ball recoveries and tackles for a repurposed winger, one of which denied Wolves an unlikely win in the game’s dying stages.
Tuchel may have had only one day, and one training session, with his new Chelsea team but Hudson-Odoi must be considered the early winner of the German’s reign.
Having struggled to nail down a first-team spot under Lampard, the sight of the new boss barking instructions at him during the match is an indication of the faith Hudson-Odoi has already inspired.
With so much at Chelsea up for re-evaluation, perhaps he can establish himself as the poster-boy for the Tuchel regime.
By Michael Lee