One of the more controversial decisions made by Thomas Tuchel during his opening four months in charge of Chelsea came back in February against Southampton.
The match itself was largely forgettable. Tuchel’s side produced a lethargic display at St Mary’s and only came away with a 1-1 draw after Mason Mount had won and then converted a penalty in the second period.
It was the German’s handling of Callum Hudson-Odoi on that rather mild February day that is easily recalled. The 20-year-old started the game on the bench but, with Chelsea trailing, was introduced at the interval. His appearance would last just 31 minutes.
“I was not happy with his attitude, energy and counter-pressing,” Tuchel said rather matter-of-factly after the game after bringing Hudson-Odoi off in the 76th minute. “I took him off and we demand 100%, I feel he is not in the right shape to help us. It was a hard decision but tomorrow it is forgotten.”
Tuchel lived up to his word: Hudson-Odoi started Chelsea’s next game, the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie against Atletico Madrid. Yet he was only named in the side on four more occasions despite the Blues’ relentless schedule.
Such treatment of Hudson-Odoi, arguably the most naturally gifted of the many Blues’ academy graduates, may seem harsh. But Tuchel has set his standards high since arriving at Stamford Bridge at the end of January and will not make exceptions for any players.
So those in the forward line have to work. And work hard. With the ball, constant movement and rotation is required. Without it, pressing triggers must be recognised and acted upon. Fail to do so and…well, Hudson-Odoi discovered what happens down on the south coast.