Thomas Tuchel has revealed the idea of playing Callum Hudson-Odoi as a wing-back first entered his head when he and his assistants were on the plane to London preparing to begin their Chelsea journey.
The deployment of Hudson-Odoi on the right side of a five has been one of the success stories from Tuchel’s early days in the job. The 20-year-old was voted Man of the Match by Blues supporters in both the Wolves and Burnley games, impressing with his direct running, use of the extra space afforded him in a deeper position, and willingness to defend when required.
It remains to be seen whether Tuchel will continue with 3-4-2-1 at Tottenham tonight, but whatever shape he selects it will be tough to leave out Hudson-Odoi on current form.
‘I didn’t know he hadn’t played wing-back before,’ said Tuchel.
‘Maybe it was a good thing I didn’t ask because maybe I would have doubted my decision!
‘We just had one training session before the Wolves game. We were flying in on the same day and wondering what structure to implement to give the team a good feeling, and to have a solid block defensively but also to attack freely.
‘To play with four you have to be very disciplined, and the automatisms between the line of four have to be very synchronised.
‘So we opted for a back five and we didn’t want to get too defensive. We thought about trying Reece and Callum on the right side in training. Callum fitted very good and we wanted to have at least four offensive guys on the pitch from the start.
‘We just let him drive and he did very good, showing all his qualities he has: the high speed, the quick recoveries, dribbles, good one-on-one.
‘He took his chance,’ added the boss. ‘There was no need to change for the second game and he did another good match.
‘Maybe in some defensive duels in the air there is space to improve, but this is absolutely normal. I am very happy he was happy to be on the pitch. He has given his best and that’s what we have asked for.’
Tuchel is not averse to finding new roles for players, like he has done for Hudson-Odoi since arriving. Raphael Guerreiro and Gonzalo Castro both found homes in central midfield under Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund while Marquinhos, traditionally a centre-back, was also occasionally deployed in the middle of the park at Paris Saint-Germain.
‘I do it only if I see something in a player, and at the same time it’s a situation where it could help the team,’ explained Tuchel.
‘Then I don’t hesitate to challenge or try to convince the player, but not against their will. If we approach them we show them pictures, we explain to them, and of course we listen to their opinion and see if they feel comfortable.
‘In the end they have to feel comfortable to bring out their best in a game. With Callum it was a big advantage I was new and it had been one day. Which player would say no? Everybody was happy to start, and he took his chance.’