By Harry Siddle – @HS_10Ftbol
One player that was constantly being talked about in the January transfer window was Callum Hudson-Odoi and Bayern Munich’s persistent pursuit of him.
In need of new, young wingers, it was no surprise that the Bavarians were linked to Hudson-Odoi but, since Bayern’s interest has become public, it’s been tentatively reported that Liverpool too are keen on the winger.
It’s no real surprise Liverpool would be tracking him when you look at what he brings at such a young age.
Despite sporadic minutes at Chelsea so far this season, with Sarri opting for the more experienced options in Pedro and Willian, every time Hudson-Odoi is given a start his impressive skillset is always on show.
One of those impressive traits that the Englishman possesses is the ability to dribble at a high and effective level. He excels in 1v1 situations as he tends to stay as wide as possible before engaging his defender. Once in these situations, he doesn’t use a wide range of skills, nor does he need to do so as his agility and quick feet beat the majority of his opponents.
There are aspects to his exciting dribbling that make me draw parallels to Hudson-Odoi’s good friend, England golden boy Jadon Sancho. His dribbling in tight, congested spaces is what makes me think of Sancho, as the way both of them dribble in these spaces are very similar. It’s clear to see that both of them honed their mastery of the ball and the tricks that they can use with their quick feet through street football and small sized games.
It’s through Hudson-Odoi’s quick feet and manipulation of the ball that makes him not just a dangerous 1v1 dribbler, but also an effective and eloquent dribbler in tight spaces as he can force himself out of tight spaces that don’t seem escapable whilst feeling composed and confident in these tight spaces.
In addition to this, the winger has shown that he can use both feet when dribbling as he can even lead his dribbling with his weaker left foot, which just adds to his unpredictability on the ball.
Another facet of the Wandsworth-born winger’s dribbling is that he has that 5-10 yard burst of pace that he uses to explode away from his defender after he uses his agility and quick feet, which makes his dribbling even more difficult to cut off.
Having that athleticism is so vital for a winger and the fact that he can combine both that with his ability to create separations from his defender makes him such a mouthwatering prospect.
This is backed up in the statistics as he makes the most successful dribbles per 90 in the Europa League this season (6.5) and, out of the top five leagues in Europe for players under 23, he is in the top five for the most successful dribbles per 90 (3.1).
As well as his dribbling, the Chelsea winger has shown signs that he can become a danger not just through his dribbling but also through his creativity.
Hudson-Odoi’s impressive creative numbers, albeit influenced by his limited minutes, can be explained by his skilled ability to cross effectively. It’s evident to see from watching his game that he is at his best at crossing when he is in full sprint and crossing into space and into the feet of an incoming run of a striker.
The amount of times he’s able to accurately curl the ball whilst sprinting and getting the ball to bounce before meeting the striker, making the striker’s job easier is really impressive.
Despite this, an area that he will improve on with more game time is the ability to effectively play through balls and to create for his teammates when he drifts inside.
Currently, when he finds himself in central positions his through balls can be a bit inconsistent and raw at times as he either mistimes or misplaces them. However this is something that should not put Liverpool off.
Another trait that Hudson-Odoi has that will make him even more appealing to Liverpool is the fact that he is a keen and willing defender when his role and duties call upon it.
Through his time playing in the Europa League and infrequent minutes in the Premier League, Hudson-Odoi’s willingness to defend is apparent to see as his defensive work-rate is something unexpected of someone of his age.
Whether that be through his pressing or his recovery when he loses the ball, the Englishman isn’t put off by contributing to the defensive side of his game. He’s also displayed his tactical astuteness when he comes back and helps cover his fullback whenever the opposing team try to create overloads on Hudson-Odoi’s side of the pitch.
Another aspect of his game that I like and would fit in well at Liverpool is his off-the-ball movements. Hudson-Odoi loves being on the ball and getting involved with the game but he also has that mentality of getting in the box and being direct with his movements to score.
When the moment is right, the 18-year-old’s typical movement in attack is that bursting run between the full-back and the centre-back or, in more dangerous situations, he likes to play off the shoulder of the defender and make peeling runs in behind.
His tendency to make these movements aren’t consistent throughout the game as he isn’t a Mo Salah type player in that sense, but he picks and chooses his moments to make these off the ball movements at the right moments.
He can be seen choosing these moments to make these runs in counter attacking situations, as he has a good understanding that making the run between the full-back and centre-back at a time when a defence is at its most vulnerable is the best moment to do so.
The fact he has that sense of making runs in behind defences to score goals just adds to his value and the multifaceted game he possesses.
How he’d fit in at Liverpool
In my opinion, the most glaring hole in Liverpool’s squad is the lack of wingers in the squad. Apart from the brilliant Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, Liverpool lack a reliable and multifaceted winger that can be used throughout the season to ease the burden off the two main men.
There are many names that can fit that role and description, and with the increasing problems Chelsea face with getting Hudson-Odoi to sign a new contract, Liverpool need to make their interest serious in the summer.
Not only does signing him from Chelsea give a real statement of intent to the rest of the league, but Liverpool would be getting one of the most talented young talents in Europe. Hudson-Odoi is a part of the new generation of young England players that are so exciting, and his skillset would add so much to this Liverpool squad.
He can operate as the right sided winger in either the 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1 and, with increased game time from a manager who excels in developing young talent, he adds elusive dribbling, a reliable final ball from out wide, a defensive work-rate that exceeds his age and intelligent off the ball movements.
Callum Hudson-Odoi ticks all the boxes.