In Focus: Callum must battle not to be the Od one out at Chelsea
Transfer deadline day was a frustrating one for Callum Hudson-Odoi after Chelsea denied him a loan switch to Borussia Dortmund.
The 20-year-old wanted regular first-team football after going unused in the Blues’ opening three Premier League games and talks were held over a temporary switch.
But manager Thomas Tuchel blocked the move, opting to keep the winger in Chelsea’s ranks as a squad player instead.
Now faced with the difficult task of breaking into the Blues' starting XI, what is next for Hudson-Odoi?
The next big thing
Hudson-Odoi was considered one of the brightest prospects to come out of the Chelsea academy in years when he first broke into the first-team picture in 2018-19.
During a season under Maurizio Sarri where Chelsea often struggled to excite, fans would clamour for the then 18-year-old to be introduced on a weekly basis.
Despite impressing, he was used sparingly by Sarri and fans’ frustration only grew when reports of strong interest from Bayern Munich emerged later in the campaign.
The Bavarians made several approaches, including a £35million bid, which only served to further underline the quality they believed the youngster possessed.
But he opted to stay at his boyhood club and picked up his first senior England caps a few months later, before signing a new five-year deal with the Blues.
After his Three Lions debut against Montenegro, Southgate said: "Our wingers were incredibly productive on the night. It was a fabulous performance from young Callum Hudson-Odoi."
"I don't need to speak about Callum — his performance did that. With young players, it's up to them. You can see the talent. His application with us has been excellent but like any player, you have to work hard to improve."
Furthermore, the new season was to bring renewed hope at Chelsea.
New manager Frank Lampard was finally handing first-team chances to academy graduates and it appeared the perfect time for starlet Hudson-Odoi to finally deliver on his potential.
But while the returning Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James would flourish under the club legend, Hudson-Odoi fell out of favour.
Out of the picture
Fast-forward to today and Chelsea have gone from strength to strength under current boss Tuchel, though Hudson-Odoi’s first-team prospects have continued to deteriorate — he has started only two of the Blues’ last 17 games.
Despite a decent pre-season, the youngster did not feature in any of Chelsea’s first three Premier League matches in 2021-22.
As a result, he began to explore the possibility of a move elsewhere — particularly when made aware of interest from BVB.
With the Bundesliga club well-renowned for developing young talent and a newly vacant spot left by Jadon Sancho, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to gain some game time before returning to West London the following season.
But despite talks being held over the move, Tuchel didn’t want to reduce the quality of his squad and forced Hudson-Odoi to stay.
On the decision, the Chelsea boss said: "It’s hard to argue with this opinion that he needs regular game time to improve his personal level. At the same time, it’s not only about letting players go.
"If we want to compete in all competitions, it’s also about numbers. You need a squad of 20 or 21 players to compensate for injuries, to compensate for yellow cards or whatever."
A report in The Athletic claims the player felt let down by his club by the decision but now has no choice but to try and force his way back into Chelsea’s star-studded line-up.
Who is ahead of him?
In Hudson-Odoi’s natural position — in the attacking area of either flank — Chelsea just happen to have an embarrassment of riches.
Mount, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech all appear to be ahead of him the pecking order when fit.
Right now, it is hard to argue that Hudson-Odoi deserves to be ahead of any of them on form.
But it could also be argued that he simply hasn’t been given the same chance — particularly when considering a player like Mount, who has gone from strength to strength since getting first-team action on loan.
It seems Hudson-Odoi is a victim of his own early success, now stalling in his development after being around the senior squad from such a young age.
A position change has been posed at right-wingback in Chelsea’s 3-4-2-1 formation, which is where most of his sparse minutes have came under Tuchel.
After initially impressing in the role during the German boss’ early days, he lost his way badly.
A low point was being substituted after only coming on at half-time against Southampton in February.
Fellow graduate James now seems to be well ahead in that position and even natural winger Pulisic has been used there before Hudson-Odoi on occasions.
Right now, Hudson-Odoi has no choice but to fight tooth and nail for opportunities and try to force the minutes he desperately needs.
After denying his move, Tuchel must surely now give the player at least a chance to impress.
Regarding where Hudson-Odoi will now fit in, Tuchel said: "He had a very, very good pre-season, of course, we are very aware that he is fighting for an offensive position, more than maybe the wing-back position.
"And if you do the maths, you end up with a lot of guys for the three offensive positions.
"He fights against a lot of guys with a lot of quality and with a bit more regular game time and more consistency. It is very hard for him. This is what I agree with, but we don’t have to feel sorry for him.
"Once the door is a little bit open, we demand he puts his feet in between it and he makes his mark. This can happen any time."
A mark of how far Hudson-Odoi has fallen is shown by the fact he was nowhere near being considered for latest England squad.
Still only 20, there is plenty of time to change both Tuchel and Southgate’s minds, but the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is fast approaching.
If his playing time is in a similar place come January, it would be hard for Tuchel to justify denying Hudson-Odoi a first team chance somewhere else.