Maurizio Sarri is preaching patience but Chelsea fans want Callum Hudson-Odoi to play after his goal in the 3-0 win over Dynamo Kiev…
Maurizio Sarri could be forgiven for being confused. Callum Hudson-Odoi, the 18-year-old winger who continues to make encouraging strides at Chelsea, has made 16 appearances this season. It’s true that he hasn’t started a Premier League game but then there isn’t a teenager in Sarri’s home country who has started a single league game for one of the top four teams in Serie A this season either. Hudson-Odoi is ahead of schedule.
- Sarri: Dangerous to hype Hudson-Odoi
- Chelsea dominate Dynamo Kiev
“I am convinced,” stressed Sarri afterwards. “He doesn’t have to do anything to convince me. He is a very good player.” And yet, Sarri still find himself accused of holding back talent. Worse still, he is seen as partially culpable if Hudson-Odoi departs in the summer as is very possible given his contract situation and the reported interest from Bayern Munich.
The player was only trusted with a place on the bench for Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Dynamo Kiev in their Europa League tie on Thursday evening, but he did come on to score the final goal. Nothing new there. Hudson-Odoi has been busy impressing Stamford Bridge every chance he gets – being directly involved in seven goals in his last seven games there.
The fans were chanting his name before he came on let alone before he scored. The Chelsea fans like what they see – the pace and the trickery. It has come to something when they would prefer to see him in the side than the brilliant Pedro, the best player on the pitch in this game. But Hudson-Odoi is a talent but he is also a symbol for these supporters.
Sarri is a victim of circumstance in many ways at Chelsea, from the perceived player power on the pitch to the apparent short-termism off it. In the case of Hudson-Odoi he really does find himself in the middle of a thorny subject that predates his appointment by many years.
John Terry is a legend at Chelsea but the club’s inability to bring through young talent after him has also become legendary. Many have an issue with it but others point to the high standards required. For a long time, the club has been able to afford the finished article. Even Ruben Loftus Cheek, also impressive against Dynamo Kiev, hasn’t convinced everyone.
Hudson-Odoi is different because there is excitement not just at his potential but with his every touch of the ball. That he has emerged at the same time as Jadon Sancho makes for a perfect storm. Sancho’s success in switching from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund adds weight to the argument that opportunity is all that’s needed for the next one to thrive.
Chelsea vs Wolves
March 10, 2019, 1:00pm
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That’s not entirely true, of course. Sancho is special. Not every hopeful whose agent is angling for a contract and talking up his client’s credentials to Bundesliga clubs belongs in the same conversation as the now England international. But most expert judges believe that Hudson-Odoi is one such talent. And the Chelsea supporters sense that too.
They just want to see more and the clock is ticking because of the very real fear that Hudson-Odoi is readying himself to walk away from it all. Sarri will point to Pedro, the scorer of the opening goal on Thursday, and Willian, who fired home a stunning free-kick of his own. He will mention too the presence of Eden Hazard, still Chelsea’s most prized asset.
And he will continue to preach patience.
“At 18 he can’t be at the top. He will be ready to be at the top at 22 or 23 years. We need to improve without the pressure of the media, fans, the club. His training is really very good. When you have pressure when you are 18 it is dangerous, you can lose the target. The target is to improve. So it is dangerous. This is why I don’t like to speak about him.”
Sensible words, perhaps, but Sarri cannot stop everyone else talking about Hudson-Odoi. The demand for his inclusion grows with every day that his contract dwindles towards its conclusion. It’s a situation not really of Sarri’s making but one that he could be doing more to address. Expect Hudson-Odoi back on the bench against Wolves. Just don’t expect the fans to like it.