Many fans have grown confused about Callum Hudson-Odoi’s latest treatment by Frank Lampard. The answer is that it isn’t 2018 for the Chelsea winger.
When Callum Hudson-Odoi was easily the best player in preseason and Maurizio Sarri still didn’t play him, fans got rightfully upset. The winger did too as he asked for a transfer in January, seeing no path way to the first team. It took the board ordering Sarri for the Italian manager to even start using him.
Fast forward to now and Frank Lampard is lining up formations with Mason Mount and Kai Havertz on the wing instead of Hudson-Odoi. Fans are, again, upset. But they are upset through a 2018 lens of Hudson-Odoi. Too much has happened in the last two years for Hudson-Odoi to still be viewed in that way.
Obviously his injury cannot be ignored. Like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, an injury like that, no matter the severity, is bound to follow a player for a while. Hudson-Odoi may have returned to action much faster than his compatriot, but that does not mean he did not face a battle to return to fitness.
After the injury, however, Hudson-Odoi has had a lot of time to find his feet. Lampard has given him chances and while there have been flashes of brilliance, they have not been nearly as constant as they were under Sarri. It was not too long ago that some fans were writing Hudson-Odoi off. Now he is seen as a hidden gem that Chelsea is sleeping on?
Then there is the matter of the arrest. The case was dropped. What exactly happened that night may remain a mystery. The only real fact is that Hudson-Odoi and his guest broke lock down rules in the middle of a pandemic. But something like that cannot be outright ignored, though only the club and the player will really know all the details.
But the main difference between Hudson-Odoi in 2018 and Hudson-Odoi now is the manager. Sarri never gave any indication that he was running a meritocracy. He had his set of players and if someone wasn’t in it, then they got the Gary Cahill treatment. Hudson-Odoi wasn’t in that set until the board made him a part of it.
Lampard, meanwhile, has been very clear that performances in training and on the pitch determine his team selection. He said as much recently when asked about Hudson-Odoi. Managers very much are, and forever will be, their habits and patterns. Lampard has very much shown that his meritocracy is a real thing and players earn their minutes.
Hudson-Odoi might deserve to play more, especially as Chelsea lacks wingers. But treating him as if it is 2018 isn’t the right way to go about it. 2020 Hudson-Odoi has to earn his time if he wants to play and for the most part, he hasn’t. He is young and has plenty of time to change that, however, so there is no need to fear yet. It is also early days this season and not playing in one match is not a sweeping declaration of the player forever and always. He’s got time, but expectations need to shift in step with that time.