When Thomas Tuchel arrived at Chelsea, Callum Hudson-Odoi was his golden boy. None of the other academy boys were immediately part of Tuchel’s plans, with Mason Mount, Reece James and Tammy Abraham all getting benched early on, but Hudson-Odoi was there from the start.
He looked like he was going to explode, but since being handed the humiliation of being brought on and taken off in February’s 1-1 draw with Southampton, things have slowed down for Hudson-Odoi and he’s no longer the regular starter he once was.
With minutes hard to come by, some fans had begun fearing that Hudson-Odoi may suffer the same fate as the frozen-out Abraham, but one moment after Saturday’s 2-1 win over Manchester City showed there’s nothing to be concerned about.
Having excelled in a 14-minute cameo which would have yielded a goal in a non-VAR paradise, Hudson-Odoi was sought out by Tuchel, who engaged him in the sort of animated coaching session Pep Guardiola has made famous in England.
The passion looked almost aggressive at times, with Tuchel clearly stressing something important to the young winger, before bringing him in for an affectionate headlock. This wasn’t just an ordinary celebration, Hudson-Odoi got special treatment from a manager whose investment in him is clear as day.
Sure, Hudson-Odoi might not be seeing regular minutes, but Tuchel’s enthusiasm suggests this is all part of a long-term plan for a player who many forget is only 20 years old.
Often burdened by his contract, worth in excess of £100,000-a-week to scare off Bayern Munich, expectations for Hudson-Odoi are usually impossibly high. Because of his deal, he’s expected to perform like a top player, despite the fact he was playing youth football just a few years ago and missed the best part of five months with an Achilles injury that has been known to end careers.
It will be a slow climb back to the top, and Tuchel seems completely aware of that. He’s taking Hudson-Odoi’s development at a slow pace, perhaps keeping him out the spotlight for his own sake.
The German boss has a habit of picking one young player and single-handedly dragging them to superstardom, and coincidentally, most of them have links to Chelsea.
At Mainz, it was Andre Schurrle who exploded on to the scene, before Christian Pulisic one-upped the German at Borussia Dortmund. In Paris, Tuchel’s job was made a little easier because of the presence of a certain Kylian Mbappe.
Ignoring Mbappe, who was a superstar before the German even landed in France, it’s clear that Tuchel knows how to nurture young wingers, and it’s now Hudson-Odoi’s turn to learn from him.
Tuchel is already planning for next season, when he is expected to show a little more flexibility with his formation, and that could be the key to unlocking Hudson-Odoi. He’s currently being asked to play as a wing-back, but with the shackles removed in an outright wing position, he can be twice the player.
A bit of patience is needed with Hudson-Odoi. Tuchel clearly wants to take his time with the young Englishman, and having had such an impact on Chelsea already, it’s safe to say that the boss has proved he deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one.
With a bit of time and some more experience under his belt, Hudson-Odoi could be destined for new heights.