Chelsea fans’ prayers were finally answered on Wednesday as Maurizio Sarri elected to start Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek over Willian and Ross Barkley – the Neapolitan’s decision paid off as the England duo influential throughout.
The 18-year-old’s future has been a topic of rife discussion at the club since the turn of the year, a trend which spiked when Bayern Munich tabled a £35 million bid for his signature in the January window, per Goal.
Hudson-Odoi joined Olivier Giroud and Eden Hazard in a front three which surely had the Blues fans drooling before the game even kicked off, let alone 90 minutes later.
The electric winger has been knocking on the door for months having impressed greatly in the Europa League, where he has been named man of the match twice by WhoScored, but his start against the Seagulls was only his first in the Premier League this campaign.
While Sarri continued to leave the right-footer stagnating on the bench, Gareth Southgate saw his talent and named him in the Three Lions squad to face Czech Republic and Montenegro – games which the 18-year-old impressed in – and, since, things have finally begun to stir into motion at club level.
While the speedster is highly thought of at Stamford Bridge, some of his qualities were somewhat unknown prior to his first league start. Now, though, we have learned two important things about the up and coming star.
He’s not afraid to get stuck in
Wide-men tend to be fragile players who are afraid to put a foot in. The likes of Hazard have the stuffing kicked out of them every week without giving much back, although Hudson-Odoi showed on Wednesday night that he isn’t afraid to play rough with one of the most physical sides in the top-flight.
The London-born teenager completed an impressive 3 tackles – an output only bettered by Ballon d’Or nominee and World Cup winner N’Golo Kante and Andreas Christensen. This will surely appeal to Sarri, who has stressed the importance of contributing to the defensive phase.
While any other manager would surely look at Hudson-Odoi and see a lethal attacking talent in the making, the thing that sets the youngster apart from the likes of Willian and Pedro, in Sarri’s eyes, could be his willingness to contribute at both ends of the pitch.
Stamford Bridge has been gripped by the fear of losing Hazard this season, with Zinedine Zidane’s shock return to Real Madrid intensifying the speculation surrounding the Belgian wizard’s future.
The talismanic number 10 once again proved that he is indispensable to the Blues with his showing against Brighton, although he might not be for much longer considering the remarkable comparisons to be made between his and Hudson-Odoi’s stats (all via WhoScored).
Both completed 3 accurate crosses out of 7 attempted, while Hudson-Odoi attempted 65 passes and completed 4 key passes to Hazard’s 64 and 3 – statistically they were almost identical.
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In fact, Hudson-Odoi’s are better. The number 20 was dispossessed just twice and the former Lille man lost the ball six times, while the starlet also completed 92% of his passes to the Los Blancos-linked ace’s 89%.
The only department in which Hazard blows the teenager out of the water is dribbling – 5 to 1 – but we know that Hudson-Odoi is willing to get at his man and those numbers will certainly soar. The signs are already there that the Blues have a ready-made Hazard replacement on their hands, it’s just a matter of nurture and development.