Cesc Fàbregas may not have been the biggest fan of Maurizio Sarri during their six months together, in part due to what he (correctly) perceived as an untouchable and undroppable Jorginho ahead of him in the pecking order, but he does sympathize with the (outgoing?) Chelsea head coach over some of his other decisions, including his reluctance to use Callum Hudson-Odoi earlier in the season.
Fàbregas, who was in Baku for the Europa League final last week to provide commentary for BT Sport, told Goal’s Nizaar Kinsella his view of the situation and how the pressures of the job often force managers to take the less risky options when selecting players.
“It is difficult because, from a manager’s point of view, you are fighting for your job every day. In football today, you could lose two games and be sacked the next day. That’s why coaches are sometimes hesitant to make changes or trust someone who doesn’t have the experience or is too young. They can look good in training but then in a game situation, they could freeze or make a mistake. The mistake could be in their head in the future if they aren’t strong enough.
“I don’t blame coaches too much. I know it is very difficult.”
Hudson-Odoi earned his spot in the first-team squad with a strong preseason, but he was restricted to the occasional minutes in secondary competitions for most of the season, or at least until Bayern Munich came knocking on the door with bagfuls of millions in hand.
Eventually, the 18-year-old managed to clock up 1557 minutes in all competitions, and it would’ve been more, possibly even in the Europa League final, had he not gone down with an unfortunate Achilles injury. On paper, that’s a very decent amount, belated as it might have been.
Chelsea’s turnaround in form following heavy defeats to Bournemouth and Manchester City, were in good part due to the introduction of Callum (as well as fellow Academy graduate Ruben Loftus-Cheek) to the starting lineup. For Cesc, who had watched Hudson-Odoi in training for the better part of two seasons, this was no surprise. The potential was there to be seen — “opportunity to be a legend”, as David Luiz said the other day — it just needed to be trusted.
“Callum has taken it all very well. He kept working, he took it with a smile on his face and in the end, Sarri and the whole world knew he deserved to play.”
“He is a good boy who is full of confidence. I remember this first training session that we did with Antonio Conte. We did 11 against zero. Just to do a little bit of play and finishing. His finishing was superb.
“I thought, I have never seen this kid before but actually he has something about him. It was very early and only the first day but you could definitely see something. Then the more he trained with us you could see that he was getting more confident. He was taking people on in training and he was not afraid.
”You could see that he had a lot of potential. Slowly, slowly he grew up. He played a little bit more and in the end, there was nothing else that Sarri could do but play him. Very well deserved and it is a little bit the same for Ruben [Loftus-Cheek]. It is unfortunate that they both missed the final.”
- Cesc Fàbregas; source: Goal
Here’s hoping for a fast recovery for Hudson-Odoi and Ruben, too, and new contracts all around, for good measure, but especially for Callum who has just one year left. Someone’s going to have to replace Eden Hazard in the long-term, after all!