Callum Hudson-Odoi continues Chelsea rejuvenation to pose Frank Lampard dilemma ahead of key week

The 20-year-old has four goals or assists in his last four appearances

Chelsea's best goals of 2020

After just a single win in seven games, Frank Lampard could ill-afford any slip-ups in the FA Cup this weekend. While a home victory over League Two Morecambe would never be enough to assuage the doubters, the reverse could easily have been true - a defeat would absolutely have ramped up the pressure on the manager.

Aside from one early scare when Kepa Arrizabalaga was forced to make an athletic save on the goal-line to prevent a wayward cross flying in, there was never any real danger of an upset at Stamford Bridge, and especially not after the opening goal came 18 minutes in.

The architect of that goal, Callum Hudson-Odoi, was the stand-out performer for the Blues in their eventual 4-0 success and he is re-rising to prominence at what might be an opportune moment for himself - and for his manager, as Lampard faces what might be a defining week at the club.

READ MORE: Premier League fixtures and table - all matches by date and kick-off time

Four defeats in six in league play have seen Chelsea drop outside the top four, only by three points, but also by five places amid the tightest race for Champions League spots in recent years. They next face a must-win game against relegation-threatened Fulham, before a crunch clash away to top-four rivals Leicester.

Not only might that latter game be a direct influence on who has the confidence and the impetus to hold those top spots, it’s also against one of the managers on the shortlist to potentially replace Lampard, in Brendan Rodgers. The upshot is that the current incumbent of the Stamford Bridge hotseat is likely to choose a lineup for these critical games which is not merely his best XI - if he even knows what that is right now - but a side of the most in-form players and those he feels he can trust.

In the attacking third, the Blues have plenty of options, but fewer guarantees of performances at present.

Christian Pulisic can look world-class from half-to-half, but has also drifted out of games. Hakim Ziyech looks set to be a regular starter, but is still finding top fitness levels after injury. Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are woefully short of top form despite goals here, while Mason Mount has been employed almost exclusively in central midfield this season- which leaves Hudson-Odoi as both the forward option currently on the rise and showing end product, as well as one who already knows everything the manager wants of him.

Having teed up the first goal for Chelsea, a low strike from Mount, he was thereafter the most busy, inventive, dangerous-looking and up-tempo player on the pitch, always available as an out-ball, keen to take on his man at every opportunity and looking full of confidence on the ball.

Hudson-Odoi’s movement and acceleration was a big factor in a game which predictably saw the Premier League side dominate, but with a rather slow pace of the game played all-too-often in front of the massed ranks of Morecambe defenders.

It was he who scored the killer third goal, too, with a clever diagonal run getting him behind the back line and finishing well - meaning strikes in successive games after the consolation against Man City and four goals or assists in as many games to his name since Boxing Day.

Chelsea celebrate

It’s not just on the technical side where Hudson-Odoi has impressed. Tactically he is well-versed in Chelsea’s play, of course, and here showed his versatility by switching flanks as needed. But he also found the spaces to come infield, tracked back well when required and, of course, found that momentary gap to sprint through and score. Lampard will consider all of this when it comes to finding a way through in the derby against Fulham and the top-four clash with the Foxes.

It has been a long road back to this point for 20-year-old Hudson-Odoi, in truth.

After his breakout year or so in the side, long-term injuries and a long-running contract negotiation seemed to take more headlines than his performances did, and even this season his most regular involvement had come in the routine Champions League group rather than the bread-and-butter regular XI of Premier League games.

That has changed in recent weeks, being called-upon in important games and finding a measure of end product in each, even if he couldn’t tilt the balance of the result in Chelsea’s favour. Here he did both, giving the team a respite from bad scorelines and pushing his own claims for a starting berth.

Lampard might have staked his long-term prospects of winning titles on big-money Bundesliga signings, but if he’s to still be around at the end of the season to try and land those prizes, it might be an attacker forged a lot closer to home who he needs most in the next few days.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in