For three consecutive matches, generally against weakened opposition, 17-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi has been leaving scorch marks down the left wing and scars on anyone assigned to defend him.
“It’s only preseason!” you might exclaim.
But there is only so many times you can do that before you have to accept what your eyes have been telling you all along.
His latest victim was no B-teamer though; it was future Barcelona right back Hector Bellerin in Dublin on Wednesday.
Hudson-Odoi goaded the quick defender six years his senior into conceding a penalty in the 15th minute, and that was just one highlight from another dominant outing in which he could have collected, with just a little bit of help from a center forward who could finish a chance or two, three assists.
Hudson-Odoi breaking Bellerin’s ankles pic.twitter.com/vdcgf5ZzO1
— . (@OfficialCheIs) August 1, 2018
Hudson-Odoi may have ended up with zero assists, but Maurizio Sarri has seen enough. There will be no loan army in Hudson-Odoi’s immediate future; he’ll be a Chelsea first-teamer before he can vote.
“Hudson-Odoi is a very young player. We have to wait. In the future he will be a very, very strong player for sure. He will stay with us [in the first team] for the season.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Goal
As scintillating as CHO’s play has been, there are reasons why he may only see limited minutes during the upcoming season.
One is the parting warning from his old coach on Chelsea’s U18 team, Jody Morris, who cautioned that he still needs to mature a bit (something that can be said about every 17-year-old). Another is that he may still need time to adapt to playing without the ball.
At times against Arsenal he ended up all the way back on his own byline as he chased his man down, but at others, he stranded an already exposed Marcos Alonso, who could be seen calling out instructions.
So it’s going to be a learning experience, both on the pitch and in the tactics room. And of course he will have to compete with the likes Hazard, Pedro, and Willian (probably), who may be judged more harshly, but are nonetheless still top class players.
But his promise is obvious. So obvious that Chelsea are reportedly trying to ink him to a five-year contract, in addition to assigning him a spot in the first team squad.
With Eden Hazard not expected back until the weekend, Hudson-Odoi has had plenty of opportunity to make his mark on the left side of Chelsea’s attack. He’ll probably have another one on Sunday in the Community Shield, against Manchester City.