A pair of 17-year-olds have taken center-ish stage for Chelsea so far this preseason, with Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi each collecting over 120 minutes worth of match action in the two games against Perth Glory and Inter Milan, and neither looking out of place by any means against much more seasoned opposition. With 11 senior appearances between them from last year already, surely that means that they are bound for further first-team action this season, right?
Well, maybe not. Maurizio Sarri certainly wasn’t getting carried away when this question was posed to him after Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Inter, acknowledging their skill and promise but hinting that their immediate future might lie below the Premier League for now.
“I don’t know if [they] 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
Sarri may or may not mean that wholeheartedly, but it certainly has shades of Mourinho’s famous prognostications about the likes of Lewis Baker and Dominic Solanke and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. So far only the latter has made good on that prediction, and Loftus-Cheek himself is by no means assured of a spot under the new manager. In fact, Sarri hasn’t even talked with Loftus-Cheek, just as he hasn’t talked with any of the late returnees from the World Cup.
Sarri has however talked to (or at least talked at) Callum Hudson-Odoi for a couple weeks in training now, and the youngster has been enjoying the education and opportunity very much.
“The fact the manager is giving me the opportunity to play is really boosting my confidence so I just want to keep getting on the ball, pressing and working hard.
“The more games I play, hopefully the more I will be able to impress him as well. Getting the opportunities is obviously a good thing so I just need to keep going. I’ve definitely liked working under Maurizio. The way he plays suits the way I play because I like to get on the ball a lot, go forward and keep attacking, I either stay in the pockets or stay wide.
“With the way the team are playing, being on the left wing is very good because you get to drive at the defenders one against one or cut inside and combine. You just play with a free mind and play how you can play, but also off the ball we press to try and win the ball high up the pitch, so we defend from the halfway line and obviously attack from there. I like playing under him.”
While we’d like to think that the minutes received are indicative of Sarri’s plans for the youngster, they probably have a lot to do with both Eden Hazard and Willian still away on post-World Cup vacations. Those two, as well as the rest of our remaining World Cup participants are due back sometime this week.
But that gives Hudson-Odoi a few more days and perhaps one more match (Wednesday’s friendly against Arsenal) to impress.
“I felt we put in a good shift [against Inter] and the tactics the boss gave us were really good and worked very well. There’s always room for improvement but I think the team did well.
“I thought my performance was good but, again, I have to keep on improving and working hard. No matter who the opposition are it’s always good to test yourself, but especially against a team like Inter Milan, who are a very tough opponent. Now we just have to keep going and hopefully we can get a good result against Arsenal on Wednesday.”
-Callum Hudson-Odoi; source: Chelsea FC
With the transfer window closing a little over a week after the Arsenal friendly, Hudson-Odoi’s short-term future should be decided very soon. Hopefully, whatever decision is made only has positive effects for his long-term, bound-for-glory Chelsea destiny.