Many of you keep asking this question to yourselves. Why a rising star like Hudson-Odoi is not playing with consistence at Chelsea?
The 18-year-old winger, who burst into Chelsea first team last season under Antonio Conte has found limited space so far making most of his appereances from the bench. It is surely surprising to see how the youth-team graduate has yet to start a game in the Premier League this season. Only 74 minutes played in England top division, while most of his starts have came in the Europa League group stage. This is a question Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has overheard since the early days of his tenure at Stamford Bridge. Following Bayern Munich’s interest in the youngster the Italian manager had to come up with an answer in order to keep him in London. Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson’s displays in the Bundesliga have not helped either with many of England’s youngsters who want to follow them and seal a move to Germany. Hudson-Odoi tried to do the same handing in a transfer request which the club refused to accept, for how much longer that remains to be seen. Summer is coming closer with mounting speculation over the Germans’ interest in the talented winger. Should Sarri still be in charge when the transfer market reopens that would be a problem he will have to face and that could undermine his future at the club.
Sarri’s unwillingness to play him did not come as a surprise for the ones who know a bit about the Italian’s style of play and methods. In his 3-year spell with Serie A side Napoli he has been accused by press and fans to play always the same XI and to give very little space to the rest of the team with a few players reportedly unhappy about this. An example of this is Simone Verdi (now at Napoli but previously at Bologna) who refused to join them in January 2018 when last season Serie A runners up were looking for a winger to boost their chances of snapping up the title. He refused to join them saying he did want to stay at Bologna to help them avoid relegation. While part of this is true there’s also something else that needs to be said. The main reason why he did not join Napoli last winter despite they were fighting for the title is to be found in Sarri himself and his stubbornness. He knew he wasn’t going to find much space and preferred to wait a bit more in order to carry on developing before joining a much bigger club.
As seen in the first few months of his tenure at Stamford Bridge Sarri heavily relies on a core group of 13-14 players. He can count on wingers like Hazard, Pedro and Willian with Hudson-Odoi currently 4th choice in the pecking order. Now they have signed Higuain Hazard is back playing on the left wing and that has further limited the 18-year-old’s playing time. However whenever he played he showed what he is capable of scoring twice in the Europa League group stage while bagging one and setting up two more in just two FA Cup outings. Despite an encouraging start to the season the pressure is mounting on the Italian. His “Sarri-ball” style has failed to live up with the huge expectations coming from his successfull spell with Napoli. The signing of Jorginho should have turned the whole Chelsea side around being the main reason not to play Kante in a midfield deep-lying position. While Kante’s issue is a matter of discussion with the manager’s view supported by the Frenchman’s greater involvement in the attacking play most of the fans made it clear they want Hudson-Odoi to become a regular for Chelsea. Sarri warned that if the youngster is to play week in week out they need to sell another winger. This sums up his philosophy and the way he thinks about football. As long as Sarri will be in charge at Chelsea it is going to be difficult to see Hudson-Odoi start with consistence. Sarri’s assistant manager Gianfranco Zola pointed out that the youth-graduate featured 14 times for the Blues, not bad for an 18-year-old in a demanding club like Chelsea. Only Ryan Sessegnon at Fulham and Morgan Gibbs-White at Wolves have done better as players born in 2000. If you factor in that Sessegnon and Gibbs-White play with much smaller sides that Chelsea then Hudson-Odoi’s playing time does not look as bad as most of the press have been saying.
Whether Sarri will stay for next season remains to be seen, same for Hudson-Odoi. The Italian and the whole club will need to address this preferably before the summer with Bayern Munich pushing to secure his services. Furthermore FIFA has just handed a two-windows transfer ban to the West London club who will unable to bring in new players up until the end of January 2020 (if their appeal will be rejected). Pulisic will join them in the summer and that could be another problem. Chelsea will try everything to keep him at the club, it is not going to be easy though with many European giants chasing the England international.