Callum Hudson-Odoi is biggest test to Thomas Tuchel’s commitment to youth at Chelsea FC

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Callum Hudson-Odoi’s failure to secure a deadline day move to Borussia Dortmund presents a challenge to both the player and his manager.

For the winger, he must shake off the disappointment of missing out on the chance to hone his craft in Germany and force his way into the picture at Stamford Bridge for fear of going the way of so many fledgling talents at Chelsea before him.

For Thomas Tuchel, this is an opportunity to come good on his regular espousing of his love and commitment to developing from within. The German manager certainly talks a good game when it comes to home-grown talent – but the reality has proved quite different since he took charge at Chelsea in January.

That will be the biggest concern to Hudson-Odoi – is he just fighting a losing battle?

There are mitigating circumstances to Tuchel’s approach to youth at Chelsea.

He came in with the specific remit of delivering immediately, having only been trusted with an initial 18-month contract.

There was also a certain amount of pressure – implied or otherwise – to get a tune out of big-money signings Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, who had proved so underwhelming despite a combined fee of £116million.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Frank Lampard’s failure to get the best out of the pair contributed significantly to his brutal sacking at the turn of the year. And Chelsea now look very different to the brave new direction Lampard was taking them in when, in no small part due to a transfer ban, he became the first manager of the Roman Abramovich era to truly tap into an academy that is the envy of the world.

Tuchel has turned them into European champions and – to the mind of many – favourites to win the Premier League this season.

He has also discarded the romance of the culture shift Lampard thought he was overseeing and large sections of supporters bought into.

Under his watch academy graduates Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham, Kurt Zouma, Tino Livramento and Marc Guehi have been sold for significant fees. Billy Gilmour has been loaned to Norwich due to Tuchel’s depth of strength in midfield, yet Spain international Saul Niguez was still signed on loan on deadline day.

Saul joins Romelu Lukaku as Chelsea’s only pieces of major business. Technically Lukaku is an academy graduate – just at a cost of £97.5million – and he fits the profile of Tuchel’s recruitment strategy this summer to sign finished articles that will turn his team into title winners.

Saul and Lukaku join on the back of having led Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan respectively to titles in Spain and Italy last season.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Tuchel deserves enormous credit for the manner in which he transformed a disjointed and bloated squad into Champions League winners. He did what Lampard could not – and this is not about questioning his methods – just about how Hudson-Odoi fits into his plans.

On an individual basis, his best work has been to reignite the careers of players who Lampard had begun to phase out.

Cesar Azpilicueta, Toni Rudiger, Marcos Alonso and Jorginho were all pushed to the fringes before Tuchel’s arrival.

Jorginho, who is being tipped to win the Ballon d’Or, had played just three Premier League games from the end of October up to Lampard’s sacking in January.

For Rudiger it was four all season, Azpilicueta, seven, Alonso, three, with the Spain defender not playing a single minute of football between September 26 and Tuchel’s second game in charge on January 31.

All four of those players became key figures in the second half of the season.

It is also worth remembering Mason Mount was dropped for Tuchel’s first game – against Wolves – despite being a near-ever-present before that and arguably Chelsea’s most consistent performer.

Ironically, Hudson-Odoi was a surprise starter in that game.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Mount and Reece James are the two home-grown Lampard favourites to have continued to thrive under the new manager.

Andreas Christensen has been a surprise winner under Tuchel, but he looked like being the fall guy had Chelsea managed to bring in Jules Kounde this summer, who they will continue to monitor this season.

In Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Rudiger, Alonso, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Saul and Lukaku, Chelsea have a core of players built to win right now.

There is no shortage of youth at Tuchel’s disposal – notably Mount, Havertz, Werner, Christensen, James, Christian Pulisic and Ben Chilwell. It is well-balanced and stacked with strength in all departments, which is why they are considered the likeliest to depose Manchester City.

Yet there is a clear profile of players who have best succeeded under Tuchel, which is why Hudson-Odoi’s future feels so uncertain.

At Dortmund there was the assurance of playing in his favoured position of left wing.

His best chance of action under Tuchel is likely to be at right wing back.

At Dortmund he had the chance to follow in the footsteps of Jadon Sancho, who went from frustration at City to one of the brightest attacking talents in Europe in such a short space of time in Germany.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Hudson-Odoi has the potential to be every bit as good as Sancho – was considered by United as an alternative to his England team-mate and coveted by Bayern Munich before signing a long-term deal at Chelsea worth around £120,000 a week.

He was also on Tuchel’s radar long before he headed to Stamford Bridge.

It is easy to understand Hudson-Odoi’s frustration. He never wanted to leave Chelsea – but the opportunity to play regularly at Dortmund was of obvious appeal. He only needs to look at the strides made by Sancho and now Jude Bellingham to know it is a club that would have nurtured his talent.

That is why Chelsea’s decision to keep hold of him feels like a missed opportunity for all concerned.

He is still only 21 – but these formative years move quickly.

He has made 45 starts for Chelsea. Bellingham, at 18, has made 38 for Dortmund, played for England at the Euros and on Sunday made his first start for his country in the 4-0 World Cup qualifying win against Andorra.

Hudson-Odoi’s England debut came in March 2019.

It feels like more than two years of lost time since then, which explains his impatience to progress and raises the question of whether Chelsea is the place to do it.

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