Callum Hudson-Odoi must rediscover his swagger at Chelsea

Tom Gott
Hudson-Odoi has lost his mojo
Hudson-Odoi has lost his mojo / Visionhaus/GettyImages

At youth level, Callum Hudson-Odoi knew what he was about.

The young winger knew he was one of the top talents in his academy class, and he played like a player bursting with confidence. The goals came flooding in and, most importantly, it was obvious that he was absolutely loving life at Chelsea.

In the first team, that swagger is yet to carry over.

For whatever reason, his 117 senior appearances - up to and including Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Brighton - have posed more questions than answers. A return of 15 goals and 20 assists is respectable, but it's not enough for a player seen by most as one of the premier talents of his generation.

Against Brighton, Hudson-Odoi was deployed in his preferred left forward position, with Christian Pulisic bumped to wing-back instead. It was a real show of faith in the youngster, but that didn't pay off.

As has been the case for a while now, Hudson-Odoi proved excellent at getting himself into dangerous positions and then bitterly disappointing once he was there.

He missed a glorious chance in the recent 3-1 win over Aston Villa - in which he bagged two assists, to add to the frustration - and fluffed a two-on-one against Brighton, failing to find Mason Mount and sending his pass directly at the feet of the defender.

It's a common issue in Hudson-Odoi's game, and one which wasn't present when he was on top of the world in the Chelsea academy.

Callum Hudson-Odoi
Hudson-Odoi is playing without freedom / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

It feels as though Hudson-Odoi needs to find his ego once again. He needs to play as though he is the best player on the pitch, which is a tough ask for a player who: has only just turned 21, lost a year to a nasty Achilles injury and has dealt with Covid-19 twice.

Hudson-Odoi has his obvious positives. His ball-carrying ability is second to none at Chelsea and he can create chances because of that, but when it comes to the big moment, he is struggling to show that class.

You can't help but draw comparisons with Real Madrid winger Vinicius Junior. In his first two years at the club, the Brazilian was an outstanding dribbler who would regularly anger fans with some poor decisions in front of goal, but that's not the case anymore.

Nearly 200 games into his senior career, and Vinicius is flying. He's figured out that composure and that cockiness that all the elite wingers needed, and he's stuffing the stats sheet for fun. The goals and assists are flooding in.

Vinicius Junior
Vinicius can be used as an inspiration to Hudson-Odoi / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

Will Hudson-Odoi enjoy that glow-up? It's tough to say. He's obviously behind in terms of minutes played, so it's entirely possible that he catches up eventually, and you can't help but feel like he has to soon if he wants to keep his place at Chelsea.

Manager Thomas Tuchel must be wise with Hudson-Odoi from here. A section of supporters are starting to turn on the winger, who was visibly disappointed with his performance against Brighton. The pressure is really ramping up.

How Tuchel and Hudson-Odoi move forward from here could make or break the young winger.