No-nonsense Thomas Tuchel and his tough love can unlock Callum Hudson-Odoi’s potential after Chelsea winger starred in Norwich demolition job
- Callum Hudson-Odoi starred in Chelsea’s 7-0 thrashing of lowly Norwich City
- The Blues winger scored one and was vital in two more goals in Saturday’s win
- Hudson-Odoi was treated harshly by Thomas Tuchel last term but is now shining
It started with a meaty hug between two old friends and ended with one pulling seven knives from his back. Clearly Thomas Tuchel is no great believer in favours.
We saw it with Chelsea’s butchering of Daniel Farke’s Norwich side on Saturday, and we continue to see it via the tough love he uses to drag better football from Callum Hudson-Odoi.
That the latter was so effective in the destruction of the former would suggest there is significant merit in Tuchel’s brand of cajoling. Hudson-Odoi, in similar ways to Mason Mount, really did bully that sorry bunch.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea stayed top of the Premier League with a 7-0 demolition of Norwich
For Tuchel’s old friend Daniel Farke (right), it was a day to forget for the Norwich City boss
For both of those English attacking talents, there was a need around the fixture to prove a point. In Mount’s case that meant capitalising on a first start in six games, and scoring a hat-trick was a decent way of cutting off the concern while it was still a murmur. For Hudson-Odoi, lower on the development ladder, the need was and is a little more pressing.
Getting the best from him has been a complex dance for successive Chelsea managers. At 20, Hudson-Odoi is both young and gloriously talented, a wide attacker who won England caps in his teens but has been at risk of drift more recently.
Tuchel had said as much before the game against Norwich, with the issuing of a challenge that a player with only two league starts this season needed to start building a body of work. The response was impressive, with Hudson-Odoi excellent in the 70 minutes he was let loose in his strongest spot on the left of Chelsea’s attacking three.
Callum Hudson-Odoi played a key role in the victory, scoring one and being crucial in two more
He was heavily involved in the first and fifth goals, and scored the second with a good finish across Tim Krul. His contribution away from the dribbles, and closer to the sweat business of pressing, is where Tuchel tends to apply the greatest scrutiny, and it was comical to see one exchange on that theme between player and manager after only two minutes.
Hudson-Odoi had committed some microscopic error in judgement, either in his over-hit through-ball to Kai Havertz or the subsequent delay in his press to retrieve possession, throwing Tuchel into one of his touchline meltdowns. The attacker told his boss to relax, and the instinct was to side with a player who went on to maul the Norwich right-back Ozan Kabak at every turn, doing both the dirty work and the aesthetic stuff.
There is method in Tuchel’s approach, of course, and it was instructive to hear his response after the game to the question of whether he is deliberately hard on Hudson-Odoi. ‘Yeah, maybe, but I think he needs that,’ he said, and it is worth pointing out he was smiling during his delivery.
‘These guys who are so full of quality hear sometimes a little bit too often how good they are. But you need to prove it.
‘To be honest, this is the highest level in Europe, so hopefully we are not unfair, but we are tough on him because it is not enough with this talent to be a part of the group.’
Tuchel (right) treated Hudson-Odoi (left) harshly at times last season, but is now shining again
The player himself seems to be on-message. Asked if Tuchel was hard to please, he said: ‘I wouldn’t say that. You have got to prove it to yourself. When you are playing, every game you have got to show yourself, show consistency and show you are worthy of playing in the team. So it was definitely a game where hopefully we have proved it on the pitch today.’
Balance to any new hype around Hudson-Odoi should come from recognition of the opposition, with Norwich apparently destined for one of the worst points hauls in the history of this division. Chelsea’s League Cup assignment against Southampton on Tuesday will offer a slightly firmer examination than Norwich, and with it a further chance for Hudson-Odoi to finally start stringing together good performances.
As for Norwich, they were woeful and Farke, once a colleague of Tuchel at Dortmund, hence their friendship, can surely extract more from his group.
Norwich defender Grant Hanley said: ‘We need to offer some sort of apology to our fans and let them know that we really appreciate the support they give us, because they deserve a better show than that.’