Only two Chelsea players went past the eighty-minute mark against Internazionale in Nice on Saturday afternoon. One was new midfield maestro Jorginho. As a former Napoli player under Maurizio Sarri, it’s an easy guess that he stayed in, at least in part, because Sarri wanted to evaluate his squad against a known quantity. Jorginho is the control, in more sense than one.
The other big-minutes-man was a bit of a surprise. Callum Hudson-Odoi only played the first half against Perth Glory on Monday. That was not entirely unexpected as Sarri rotates his squad through the pre-season games and puts each of them under the microscope. Hudson-Odoi was in the starting lineup on Saturday once again — it was in fact the same starting eleven as on Monday — but this time, he stayed on until the 83rd minute.
And not only that, he also continued to be one of Chelsea’s best players.
Could the minutes received be a hint about what’s going on in the new manager’s mind? Could it be a clue that Sarri is very close to believing that the 17-year-old — seventeen! — might actually be ready to play for Chelsea in the Premier League? Maybe ... not. Or not yet.
“I don’t know if [Hudson-Odoi and Ampadu] will play this season in the Premier League. But I know that these names will be very famous in the next years.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: ESPN
It’s of course very easy to get carried away. Chelsea are two starting wingers light at the moment, and as good and exciting as Hudson-Odoi may be, he’s likely to be on the bench a lot with Hazard and Willian and Pedro ahead of him. It may indeed be that the best thing for his development is to go somewhere where he’ll play serious minutes.
As former youth manager Jody Morris pointed at the end of the season, Hudson-Odoi is has still got a ways to go to become the finished product.
“He has still got a lot to do [to become a complete player]. He will get a lot of plaudits because he has shown in glimpses that he has got real, real quality. He showed in other glimpses that he needs to mature and he needs to follow instructions.
”He has got a lot to learn, and so have a lot of players on the pitch, but he has certainly got a chance, if he keeps his feet on the ground and matures properly. There’s a young kid there that has got a fantastic amount of talent.
”Nobody wants to see him succeed more than me, some of the things he does with a football is fantastic at times but you also want to shake him at times.”
-Jody Morris; May 2018
As ever, it’s a tricky situation. There are no easy answers and it’s going to be a tough call for Sarri.
You’d hate to see a player ruined because he was thrown-in before he’s mature enough to handle it or good enough to displace seasoned top-level professional. At 17, Hudson-Odoi needs as many minutes as possible.
On the other hand...