Callum Hudson-Odoi is a player on the crux of a dilemma. Uncertainty surrounding the futures of Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic offers a potentially fruitful pathway as the wide man tasked with taking Chelsea – the club who have nursed him back to fitness after bringing him through the academy, into a new era. But on the other hand, the idea that Hudson-Odoi could take this role on is doubtful, as he hasn’t shown enough consistency in the fleeting minutes he’s been given.
To become the main man at Stamford Bridge, he needs to be afforded a considered run of games in which to impress, but Thomas Tuchel doesn’t trust him enough to make this a reality. So, this is where Bayer Leverkusen come in.
Having won just one of their opening four games, they require some fresh impetus. Hudson-Odoi provides this, hungry to show that he’s put his injury troubles behind him. He will have the chance to exert himself in a league that has lusted after him since his breakthrough under Antonio Conte.
Hudson-Odoi and the Bundesliga seem like a stylistic match made in heaven. The German game rewards direct, counter-pressing football, and whilst Hudson-Odoi has lost some of the explosiveness that made his breakthrough so exciting, he is in no better place to rediscover this side to his game.
Leverkusen are renowned for their ability to dominate the wings, with some of the brightest attacking talents in Germany having plied their trade at the club. At present, Moussa Diaby is the focal point of Leverkusen’s attack, and his protracted move to Newcastle offered Hudson-Odoi a real opportunity to take the initiative. Diaby’s move didn’t materialise, but the way Leverkusen utilises the Frenchman’s ability will encourage Hudson-Odoi.
Diaby is left-footed but plays off the right flank, looking to cut in and find shooting positions. Hudson-Odoi has made this same move a staple of his game. Isolating his full-back, feigning to take him wide before chopping back and firing low with a reverse shot that would commonly catch out an already mobile keeper’.
Leverkusen are also a team who makes a habit of crossing the ball into the area, with Patrick Schick and Sardar Azmoun standing at six foot three and six foot one respectively. This suits Hudson-Odoi’s style of play to a tee – the 21-year-old ranks in the 90th percentile for crosses into the penalty area per 90 and the 75th percentile for crosses completed per90, according to FBref.
Often used as an impact sub, his stats will be slightly inflated, but ultimately this is the way the Englishman has always played, and doubtless, Leverkusen will only encourage Hudson-Odoi to continue doing what he’s doing. With ex-Manchester City academy graduate Jeremie Frimpong comfortable operating in the half spaces, as well as the channels, Hudson-Odoi will be able to seamlessly rotate.
Hudson-Odoi’s main problem is that there is currently a void on the left-hand side of Leverkusen’s attack, whilst Diaby is one of Europe’s most coveted wide men and will be hard to displace. Whilst Hudson-Odoi is comfortable operating on the left, his best moments have come from the right. Ultimately though, this is a player who was subject to unwavering interest from Bayern Munich, he can play off either flank and shine.
Hudson-Odoi looks set to get the chance to let loose in a league that has always known his worth. Consistent football is all Hudson-Odoi has needed, and Leverkusen can offer this in a tactical setup that compliments his game. Many an Englishman has found favour in Germany over the last decade, and Hudson-Odoi will be looking to follow in the footsteps of close friend Jaden Sancho and make the sort of impact that simply can’t be ignored.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @Juanffran / Jonathan Nackstrand – Getty Images