In Focus: Hudson-Odoi has the answer to Tuchel's Call for more
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s Chelsea career looked to be all but over not too long ago — now he is firmly back in the first-team picture at Stamford Bridge.
Three straight Premier League starts for the table-topping Blues suggest Thomas Tuchel has finally been won over by the 21-year-old and a busy festive period is likely to mean further opportunities to impress.
We take a closer look at how Hudson-Odoi’s chance for redemption came about and consider what the future holds for one of England’s most prodigious talents.
Having made his Chelsea debut at 17 and senior international debut at 18, it is little wonder Hudson-Odoi came into the campaign feeling disillusioned.
He started only two of his club's final 12 Premier League games last term and found himself unused in the opening two clashes of the season, prompting speculation regarding a potential transfer or loan move.
Reports suggested the player was keen to exit but his boss had other ideas, with Tuchel preferring to keep the versatile starlet in his ranks.
Days before the summer transfer window slammed shut, the Blues boss said: "It’s hard to argue with this opinion that he needs regular game time to improve his 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 to 21 players. I have the feeling that Callum decided to fight for his place here.
"He had a very good pre-season and the door is always open to sneak through."
Grasping the opportunity
Tuchel was swiftly proved right last month, when a comfortable 4-0 Champions League win over Malmo was marred by a double injury blow.
Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner limped off within 20 minutes of each other, leaving a significant void in Chelsea’s frontline and in turn presenting an opportunity for fringe players to exploit.
Hudson-Odoi was Werner’s replacement against the Swedish outfit, laying on an assist for Kai Havertz in a 45-minute cameo that convinced his manager to start him again three days later against Norwich.
That 7-0 rout of the Canaries saw the academy star net his first goal for the Blues since January and a first strike in 16 top-flight appearances under Tuchel.
Deliver the goods and you shall be rewarded — Hudson-Odoi has been in the first XI for subsequent clashes against Southampton, Newcastle, Malmo and Burnley.
But before handing him an extended run in the side, Tuchel made his feelings clear about the hard work to come.
Speaking after his side dismantled Norwich, the tactician said: "He played well against Malmo and had a good game today but there are still things to improve and to work on.
"Now it is on him. It is like I said before the game, he needs to show he is able to produce performances like this consistently."
Naturally, getting back into the Chelsea first-team picture has prompted talk of an England return — but the situation is a little more complex at international level.
His decision to refuse an England Under-21s call-up has been publicly questioned by both Tuchel and Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate, who suggested the youngster had "missed an opportunity" to impress.
Given Hudson-Odoi is still eligible to switch his allegiance to Ghana after FIFA updated their rules over player declaration last year, a recall to England’s senior group for the upcoming qualifiers against Albania and San Marino would have held more significance than usual.
But Southgate has opted to wait a little longer before forgiving and forgetting.
He said: "I had a good chat with Callum before last month’s get-together because it is difficult if you are a young player.
"You’ve been with the senior team, he went back to play with the U-21s in the last cycle and then to go again in a second cycle, I can understand is a difficult challenge.
"So we would still like him to do that but he wants to back himself with his Chelsea form to get back into the seniors and I totally respect that."
With the England issue seemingly placed on the back-burner for now, the equation has possibly been made easier for Hudson-Odoi.
His sole focus can remain on staying in Tuchel's side for as long as possible, attempting to add a level of consistency and reliability to his game that has previously been non-existent.
Undoubtedly, occupying a position further up the field will also have delivered a timely morale boost.
Time spent deputising in a wing-back role has always seemed like a waste of his offensive skill set — and Hudson-Odoi of has made no secret of his preferred role.
He told Chelsea’s website after the Norwich win: "That [in a front three] is my favourite position — I’ve always played there.
"No matter where I play I will give my best whatever position it is, but I feel most comfortable there. I have been playing there all my life so I know the position very well."
He set up the only goal as Chelsea beat Malmo 1-0 last week — something which needs to become a regular occurrence if he is to nail down a starting berth in the long-term.
The coming months feel like a particularly important point in Hudson-Odoi's career.
For all his talent, there have been numerous examples of players bursting onto the scene in the Premier League before failing to fulfil their potential.
Nobody is too good to fail and Hudson-Odoi needs to continue putting in the hard yards to ensure his revival is not merely a flash in the pan.
Having previously attracted attention from Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, the great and the good of the football world are well aware of how good he could prove to be.
With a frustrating period seemingly behind him, it is time for Hudson-Odoi to start converting potential into reality.