allum Hudson-Odoi showed Chelsea’s supporters and Gareth Southgate what he is capable of, with a goal and assist during a rare 90 minute outing for his club, but Maurizio Sarri still has reservations about the teenage winger.
The 18-year-old wide player was central to Chelsea’s 4-0 victory over PAOK, who played with ten men for 83 minutes after defender Yevhen Khacheridi received an early red card for a foul on Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman went on to score twice before half-time, and after the break Hudson-Odoi scored his first goal for the club and set up substitute Alvaro Morata for a late header that enabled the scoreline to reflect Chelsea’s dominance.
Hudson-Odoi also rattled the crossbar in his first start since the Community Shield in August, and put in an impressive performance in front of the watching England manager Southgate.
But Sarri said the youngster, who starred in England’s under-17 World Cup triumph last year, was not yet ready to step into Chelsea’s first-choice side. “I don’t know if he is able to play in the Premier League at 18, especially in a big team. (Otherwise) he would be the best player in Europe in two or three years,” said the manager.
Seeking to clarify his point, Sarri added: “ If he were already ready to make a difference in the team like Chelsea now, he would be the best player in Europe in two years.”
It may explain why the teenager had played only 65 minutes since that defeat by Manchester City at Wembley in August, and has been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge. He has 18 months remaining on his contract and talks about a new deal are unresolved, but he showed on Thursday just how talented he is.
Hudson-Odoi was a threat throughout as Chelsea cruised to victory against the Greek league leaders, whose already difficult task was made near-impossible within seven minutes of kick-off when Khacheridi was sent off for tripping Giroud on the edge of the penalty area.
Chances came thick and fast for the Blues in a one-sided game, and the only surprise was that it took them 27 minutes to open the scoring. Giroud had already gone close, volleying wide from a tight angle, but when Pedro set him up on the right side of the penalty area with a perfectly-weighted lay-off after controlling a forward pass from Fabregas, the Frenchman steered the ball low into the far corner of goal with his left-foot.
It was his ninth goal in 15 European starts for Arsenal and Chelsea, and the tenth followed ten minutes later. Fabregas, playing like a quarterback, chipped another precision pass forward, and Giroud raced on to volley it with an outstretched left leg from a tight angle, the ball flying in at the near post of Alexandros Paschalakis.
It was the same gap, between goalkeeper and near-post that Hudson-Odoi exploited when he made it 3-0 on the hour mark with a firm drive after cutting in from the left.
He capped a fine night by curling in a perfect cross for Morata to score with his first touch, in the 75th minute.
Having been confirmed as winners of Group L before kickoff because Bate had beaten Vidi earlier in the evening, the Blues did not need anything more than a confidence-boosting run-out after their morale-sapping defeat by Tottenham on Saturday. Sarri changed all ten of his outfield players, and was rewarded with a composed performance and a comfortable win by his second string.
But he is likely to return to the usual suspects for Sunday’s derby with Fulham. “In the last match, the big problem was the team, not one or two players. I think that if there were two different players, it would have been the same.
“But I am very happy that we approached this match well because in the past three matches, we had big problems to get into the game. “