Callum Hudson-Odoi’s conviction never wavered despite Chelsea’s frustration throughout against Newcastle. The 18-year-old’s confidence sits snugly alongside an expectancy to pull off everything he attempts despite his youth.
That belief makes the maturity of his decision-making and simplicity to his game even more impressive as he quietly shone up against a black and white wall determined to deny him space to unleash his speed and threat when combining on the move.
Immediately occupying a high, wide position on the left, Hudson-Odoi’s body language bordered on disinterested in times, but as the game developed it became clear he was merely displaying patience to receive the ball in his favourite spot. Deandre Yedlin’s speed to close the gap from the compact five across the back to the chalk on the touchline initially forced a backwards approach for Hudson-Odoi, limiting the opportunity for take-ons.
But it did not completely deny him the opportunity to shine in the opening stages: his bullet-like cross-field passes, connecting with four out of five, helped the Blues to reset and probe their negative opponents.
But after 15 minutes, Yedlin’s hesitation gifted the youngster enough room to dribble forwards, spinning the American off balance with a fake to drift to the outside before neatly clipping a delightful ball to the back post that Willian should have dispatched. Such is Hudson-Odoi’s hunger to be involved without compromising his position by searching for the ball that Fikayo Tomori was even given an earful during a short drinks break, perhaps demanding an earlier ball out from the back.
There was a selfless element to a performance that delighted Frank Lampard, which included an awareness to nudge the ball on to Marcos Alonso for the vital winner and a fifth successive victory for his side.
“I thought he was really good, in terms of his end product on the wing, taking people on. He looks sharp, getting at people, he’s a big threat,” Lampard proclaimed afterwards.
“The end product will come even more, so near to coming inside and getting a shot away.”
That’s a terrifying thought for opponents given his age and the stunning impact delivered since the devastating Achilles injury towards the end of last season. Five games, five decisive moments: a goal and four assists have offered a glimpse of what could come in the absence of his predecessor, Eden Hazard, on that left flank.
This is a player in a hurry to fulfil the bundles of rare talent he possesses, emphasising a “point to prove” after a double for England Under-21s against Austria midweek.
There will surely be more goals too, given the evident instinct to support Tammy Abraham inside the box whenever Alonso pushed forward to occupy his usual position.
In a rare moment of discomfort for Hudson-Odoi though, Miguel Almiron’s run deep down the right appeared to unsettle him moving back towards his own goal. And to remain on track towards establishing himself as the world class player he will surely now become, Lampard hinted at where the hard graft must be focused.
“Callum needs to carry on doing that but there’s also the other side of the game, the other side off the ball, he knows he can get better at that and he will do,” Lampard acknowledged.
“But there were real big glimpses today of some of the special stuff he has got.”