August 20, 2022

The upcoming pre-season was always going to be big for Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Through no fault of his own, the 2021-22 season ended disappointingly for him. Injuries have limited the England international to just nine appearances since the start of the year, most recently at Luton in the FA Cup in March.

When you’re trying to cement a first-team place at one of the Premier League’s most competitive sides, any length of absence isn’t ideal, but it’s particularly difficult in the case of someone like Hudson. -Odoi, who has struggled with other attacking players for first-team minutes for Chelsea since his promotion from the academy in 2018.

However, it’s only a matter of time before he has even more competition to worry about.

Chelsea are expected to agree a deal to sign Raheem Sterling from Manchester City soon and are also optimistic about Raphinha’s purchase from Leeds United. They also liked Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele, who is available as a free agent but would cost a fortune in salary.

You could say, on the one hand, that the interest in these players actually offers Hudson-Odoi a source of encouragement.

Going after wide players, it suggests coach Thomas Tuchel is considering a change in formation, which will better suit the 21-year-old’s style of play. The obvious negative is that Chelsea will spend no more than £100m in fees and wages to leave new arrivals on the bench, and that would mean Hudson-Odoi would be used more in a back-up role.

It is too early to make any decisions on his future, but he is one of nine players in the squad who have reached that tricky stage for any club of having just two years left on their contracts. This is when the team and the individual begin to consider whether or not they want an extension.

Significantly, Chelsea’s desire to sign Sterling, Raphinha and/or Dembele also sent a message to other clubs about Hudson-Odoi’s potential availability. Athleticism understands that some big clubs, in the Premier League and abroad, are already making inquiries.

Although Hudson-Odoi hasn’t come close to fulfilling his potential since being rejected by Bayern Munich in 2019, he still made 126 appearances for Chelsea before his 22nd birthday. Not too bad of a record for an academy product.

But this is the period where he really needs to play more regularly to fully become the player he can be. Being a small character is not beneficial for anyone.

Tuchel is believed to value Hudson-Odoi highly and conversations have recently taken place over the situation between his representatives and Chelsea’s new co-owner Todd Boehly, although this is also part of a familiarization exercise.

There is, however, a part of Chelsea’s fan base that is unconvinced by Hudson-Odoi. His progress was not helped by the serious Achilles injury he suffered three years ago and perhaps he underestimated the seriousness of that setback.

But while there is certainly room for improvement when it comes to Hudson-Odoi, it should not be forgotten that Chelsea’s best form last season coincided with him starting regularly in his favored position on the left of their attack.

There have been too many occasions where Tuchel has chosen him at the back or on the right flank.

Between October and November, however, Hudson-Odoi featured in 10 of Chelsea’s 11 games and was in the first XI for nine of them, mostly on the left. They won eight of the 10 games Hudson-Odoi played, drawing the other two. He scored twice and provided a few assists, his goals coming in impressive wins over Norwich and Juventus (7-0 and 4-0 wins respectively).

Even though his contribution in the second half of the season faltered due to fitness issues, there were still some telling moments, the most memorable being his sublime cross for Romelu Lukaku to score against Palmeiras in the final of the Club World Cup in February. It was the second grand final Tuchel had thrown him into – he also featured in the Super Cup win over Villarreal in August.

But Tuchel – rightly so, given the qualities of Manchester City and Liverpool – is a difficult man to please. Even when Hudson-Odoi was showing signs of consistency, the Chelsea manager made it clear he was not yet fully convinced by what he was seeing.

Speaking of Hudson-Odoi in October, he said, “Is there a turning point? OK, he has to prove it. He must play the next 250 games at the highest level and then it was the turning point – but is it a turning point if he has a brilliant game tomorrow? No.

“It’s only a turning point if he turns it into a turning point and only if he doesn’t just have a good game, a good half, a good 60 minutes, but if he does it consistently. It’s also simple as that with every player.

“Once you do that, you will have more minutes. Once you have more minutes, you might look back and say, “That was a turning point.”

“You have to fight for it. You have to earn it. It has to be a perfect fit in a perfect time. Sometimes you need a little luck, but in the end the only person who can answer that question is Callum, and we’ll support him.

A measure of Hudson-Odoi’s determination to impress in pre-season – the club leaves for a three-match tour of the United States on July 9 – is reflected in the fact that he has barely stopped since the the final season ends on May 22. He only took a week off and was still working on his fitness during that time.

Hudson-Odoi has a personal trainer – anyone who follows him on Instagram can see posts of intense workouts involving a lot of weight – but he is also believed to have been at the club’s training ground in Cobham over the past four or last five weeks to drill with the coaches there, as well as joining the Under-23s during their report last week.

Everything had the desired effect. The injury that ended last season prematurely is a thing of the past and he feels fit and strong.

Hudson-Odoi has another motivation to get the new season off to a good start, which could also have a say in what happens in the remaining weeks of the summer transfer window.

Despite numerous reports suggesting he is ready to switch allegiance to play for Ghana at the World Cup in November, it is understood that is far too premature and unlikely to happen. in the current state of things.

Although he faces a tough challenge to climb back up the table, Hudson-Odoi still harbors hopes of making England’s 26-man squad for the final.

It will take months of very good form to persuade manager Gareth Southgate to start picking him again, as the last of his three caps came in 2019. To pull off the feat, he’s going to have to feature regularly for someone.

Hudson-Odoi has not played for England since 2019 (Photo: Andrej Isakovic/AFP/Getty Images)

Hudson-Odoi may choose to play for Ghana in Qatar, whose World Cup hosting is controversial for the reasons outlined in this article, although he has played in competitive games for England before. A FIFA rule change in 2020 allows players with no more than three caps to switch, as long as they made those appearances before turning 21.

But Hudson-Odoi is not only thinking about the advantage of representing Ghana in a major tournament. Committing to it now will require him to travel long distances in and out of seasons for the next decade or so. It would be a privilege, but it’s also another burden to manage during what is already a hectic schedule at club level.

Right now, the vast majority of Chelsea supporters only care who the club are going to buy. However, the market is a double-edged sword and entries naturally impact exits.

The next few months – the transfer deadline is 11pm UK time on September 1 – could have a major impact on Hudson-Odoi’s future.

(Top photo: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)