Thomas Tuchel is not afraid to try new things, and in his first game, we already saw a very good example of that when he deployed Callum Hudson-Odoi as one of the wing-backs in a 3-4-3 formation.
It was reminiscent in more ways than one of Antonio Conte’s title-winning tactical setup in 2016-17, down to the part where a winger was converted into a wing-back. As familiar as that may have been for us, for said winger himself, it was something very new indeed. In fact, as Hudson-Odoi tells it, he had just the one training session to try to grasp the Victor Moses-esque transformation that was asked of him.
“It was something new for me. It was my first time trying it [in training] and I felt alright playing in it, it wasn’t a problem for me. It was good trying to play that position and no matter where the manager asks me to play I will try to do my best.”
Sure enough, Hudson-Odoi was one of our best players on the day, and contributed not only in attack but on the defensive end as well. In fact, perhaps his most noteworthy contribution was tracking back in the final minute to make a last-man tackle to prevent what would have surely been the winning goal for the visitors.
“I spotted it straight away. I said to myself I have to get back there as quick as possible and I gave all my effort to do so and try to get a little touch on the ball to take it away.”
A modern wing-back has to be a multipurpose player by definition, requiring a ton of stamina to run up and down the pitch and support both the attacking and defensive endeavours of team. Hudson-Odoi’s passing and dribbling skills are certainly well suited to that, while his defensive game has been improving all season. Now fully recovered from his Achilles injury, his early involvement under the new head coach is surely a positive sign of things to come.
“[Tuchel] wants me to be as direct and to keep getting at full-backs and defenders as much as possible. He knows all the attacking players can be free and score goals and he wants us to be direct and keep pushing and try to get goals and get assists. He told me to work up and down that line, be direct and stay as high and wide as possible.
“I try to break the line and keep doing different movements to get the ball. He wants us to keep going in behind and find good passes, find different ways of breaking teams instead of trying to beat them every time with the ball.”
Chelsea may not have managed to win on Wednesday, but our possession-focused style was coupled with a more than welcome intensity and directness. The first signs of Tuchel’s work are certainly a good source of optimism.
“At half-time [Tuchel] told us to keep the same mentality and to keep what we were doing because we were playing really well, working really hard and the intensity of the game was really high for us. So we have to keep pushing and keep pushing and to try to come out with the same mentality and the same intensity and try to get the goal.
“From the start he said just go out there and play with aggression and intensity, and you could see on the pitch that we did that and we were unfortunate not to get that goal.
“I felt that it was a game we deserved to win, we had the right mentality from the start. We will reflect on it and try to be more clinical in front of goal.”
-Callum Hudson-Odoi; source: Chelsea FC
Next chance for that is coming up quickly, as we take on suddenly very good Burnley on Sunday.