Frank Lampard’s handling of Callum Hudson-Odoi has been coming under increased criticism of late, with the 20-year-old seemingly held to a higher standard than (some of) his teammates in trying to prove himself to the head coach. While the Chelsea Academy wonderkid has been producing and making a direct impact on the scoreboard recently, his minutes have remained limited, especially in the Premier League, when compared to the likes of Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, and even Timo Werner, who’s been utilized on the wing more often than not.
What makes the situation even more confusing is that Lampard has freely admitted that Hudson-Odoi’s in good form and has been answering all the challenges he’s laid out for him — better defensive play, better consistency, better willingness to take on players — and yet he remains firmly third choice among the three actual wingers in the squad.
“He’s definitely playing well and improving [...] making assists and scoring goals, he is playing at a really high level where we saw him last year, recovering from an injury. I think his confidence visually to beat his man, go one-versus-one, which he has to be about, wasn’t quite there.
“We have to understand that because he’s young and he’s come off the back of a really bad injury. Now we’re seeing that come back and we’re seeing him run behind the line, hence when he scores against Morecambe — I know it’s Morecambe, but he breaks the line and scores a goal.
“He’s doing that much more regularly now, which is what I ask from him. So his progression is there and he’s getting his chances and he will get more chances.”
Lampard’s certainly correct in pointing out that Hudson-Odoi’s play suffered visibly throughout last season even after he was declared officially “recovered” from his Achilles tear. That’s normal for any player, young or old, experienced or not, coming back from such a massive injury. And to his credit, Lampard stayed very patient and protective, giving the kid suitable opportunities to find his feet and his confidence again — sometimes even to the team’s detriment in a way (see also: Ruben Loftus-Cheek).
But that just makes the current reluctance to give Callum more big minutes all the more strange, especially with neither Pulisic nor Ziyech in great form and also dealing with their own series of minor-ish injuries (the types of which could be reduced by better rotation and load management).
Lampard has been promising more minutes for Hudson-Odoi, but the proof, as ever, will be in the pudding. CHO may not solve all of the team’s issues, but it’s certainly worth (especially in the long-run) giving him an opportunity to do so, and not just once or twice.
“Callum’s raised his game, so Callum will get his opportunities. There’s no doubt about that because he’s playing well, he’s playing better than I’ve seen him play for us and really contributing. That’s from his own hard work and natural talent. It’s good to see.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Goal
So say we all.