Frank Lampard believes increased competition in forward areas and an injury-free run has contributed to Callum Hudson-Odoi taking his game to new heights in recent weeks.
The 20-year-old came off the bench to help break the deadlock at Craven Cottage on Saturday evening, with his dribbling skills and close control adding a more direct threat in the final third.
It was his patient approach play on the right-hand side of the Fulham box that led to the only goal of the game, with Mason Mount eventually firing in on the half-volley, and that followed a goal in our FA Cup victory against Morecambe a week earlier.
Lampard admitted after the win across town in south-west London that the youngster had been unfortunate not to start and the Chelsea head coach praised his recent efforts, citing improved confidence following a long-term Achilles injury absence.
‘He’s definitely playing well and improving, making assists and scoring goals,’ said Lampard. ‘He’s playing at a really high level in terms of where we saw him last year recovering from an injury.
‘His confidence to go one-v-one and beat his man, which Callum has to be about, wasn’t quite there and we have to understand that because he’s young and he’d come off the back of a really bad injury.
‘Now we’re seeing that come back, we’re seeing him behind the line, like when he scored against Morecambe where he breaks the line and scores a goal. He’s doing that much more regularly now, which are things that I ask from him, so the progression is there.’
Lampard also feels the addition of top attacking talent in the summer to complement the existing forward players has helped Hudson-Odoi’s progress, as has a desire to improve in training day-in, day-out.
‘We’ve got Christian Pulisic, who last year came to the club and ended the season with a really good record of goals and assists, the best in his career,’ continued the boss. ‘Hakim Ziyech has come in and had a really good patch for us and brought things to our game.
‘Callum has raised his game so he will absolutely get opportunities because he’s playing well, better than I’ve seen him play for us. He’s really contributed and that’s through his own hard work and natural talent so that’s good to see.’
After helping the Blues keep a clean sheet at Craven Cottage, Thiago Silva was pictured handing his shirt to a construction worker on Fulham’s half-built new stand, a generous act that attracted some criticism given recent Covid-19 protocols introduced to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
Lampard admitted it was an innocent mistake from the Brazilian and he would remind him not to repeat it in the future, although he was quick to point out that the transgression was hardly one that warranted significant attention.
‘It happened when Everton played at Fulham and Richarlison gave his shirt to apparently the same member of staff who asked for it,’ added Lampard. ‘The players were very aware of the new restrictions, which were fresh in last week about players not swapping shirts, which I think everyone adhered to.
‘I’ll speak to him very clearly because swapping shirts with anyone at the moment is not what we want but these rules are changing a lot and it’s very much an innocent thing. This is not somebody having a New Year’s Eve party with 25 people or someone going out in the street and hanging around with their mates for too long.
‘This is someone who got asked for a shirt and who wasn’t maybe quite clear of the rules. Thiago is a good man and it’s a small correction to be made moving forward.’