Callum Hudson-Odoi has not been left wanting for playing time too often in the past couple years, be that under Frank Lampard or Thomas Tuchel, with his involvement steadily increasing as he’s continued his long-term recovery from his Achilles tear. He set a new career high last year with over 1800 minutes played, and he’s well on track to exceed that this year with almost 1700 to his name already. He’s currently second to Mason Mount among all attacking players in that regard.
That said, not all of Callum’s minutes have come in strictly “attacking” roles or traditionally attacking positions in the team. Under Tuchel, he’s been deployed a non-negligible amount of times at wing-back, be that right or left, with varying degrees of success and benefit. But as the 21-year-old sees it, it’s at the very least adding some new dimensions to his game.
“I think it’s added more to my defensive side. Playing wing-back is more defensive-minded, so you have to judge when to lunge in for a tackle, not just recklessly going in, or making sure you’re in the right position when you’re covering for a team-mate, or if you’re one-on-one against an attacker you just have to make sure you stand your ground and show him outside or inside where there’s more bodies.
“For myself it’s definitely added a defensive side to my game and it helps as well, especially if you’re playing higher up the pitch, for the pressing side and knowing how to defend from the front. So it’s definitely good.”
Of course, Callum still prefers to play in his “natural” position further forward in attack. While we’ve seen that more regularly this season — at least injuries and other factors permitting — like Christian Pulisic, he has been pressed into action in sub-optimal positions and roles.
And like Pulisic recently reflected upon as well, he’s simply trying to make the most of them.
“I’d definitely say I prefer more-attacking positions for myself, as a winger or a No.10 kind of player. Obviously I like to be direct and try to create scoring opportunities for the team, hopefully try to score some myself. Playing in that position I’m more comfortable and I feel more free while playing there as well [to] be myself, be free and try to create and score goals as well. [...] Playing at wing-back is [...] definitely harder, so I’d say definitely an attacking position is what I prefer.
“There are times in a game when I’m playing wing-back and I’m looking forward and thinking I can go forward here, but then I know, just in case, if I do and we then lose the ball and it’s a counter-attack the run back is very far.”
-Callum Hudson-Odoi; source: Chelsea FC
Another thing Hudson-Odoi has in common with Pulisic is that they will both have two years left on their contracts this summer — i.e. it will be time to start thinking long and hard about their futures, for both the players themselves and the club. They are both still so very young, 21 and 23, respectively, as hard as that may be to believe given how long they’ve been at the club or on our radar, or given the expectations placed on their shoulders for that matter. But that just means that the decisions made could be even more impactful on their careers.
The sort of versatility they’ve shown should be a boon for us, and them, but at the end of the day, it’s all about being as happy as you can be in your work.