The international break. Typically an unwelcome distraction and time-thief from the extravagant Premier League campaign. Nonetheless, with Chelsea’s recent struggles due to inconsistency, many Blues fans were excited to see our two representatives in the white of England, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ross Barkley.

Much has been reported of Hudson-Odoi’s maiden call-up to the full England squad, met with much excitement from the Chelsea faithful. Callum subsequently made his international debut, replacing star-man Raheem Sterling in the 70th minute at Wembley against the Czech Republic. The same directness and attacking prowess as seen in his cameos in the blue of Chelsea was on-show immediately at Wembley, with his pace and subsequent snapshot the catalyst for England’s fifth goal of the night, an own goal from Chelsea loanee Tomas Kalas. It wasn’t just CHO representing the West London club in good light on the night, Ross Barkley was introduced into the fray as the first substitution of the night, coming on for Eric Dier in the 17th minute. Barkley repaid Gareth Southgate’s faith in him with a dominant display in the midfield, with his continuous bursts forward providing a constant thorn in the Czech’s defense. Barkley’s best run of the night resulted in Raheem Sterling’s hat-trick goal, an assist on the night.

callum-hudson-odoi-220319aSource – The Evening Standard

The Guardian’s outlook on the pair after the 5-0 win:

Callum Hudson-Odoi

(for Sterling 70) Eclipsed Duncan Edwards as England’s youngest competitive debutant, and panicked Kalas into conceding the fifth. 7

Ross Barkley

(for Dier 17) Progressive, playing as if he had shrugged off the shackles imposed by his club manager. 8

Fast forward a few days, and the pair were back in action for England, both securing starts in the away fixture vs Montenegro. This would be Callum’s first start for his country, and Barkley’s first in what seems forever for a player who’s England career was far from the forefront in recent times. Both players impressed vividly in this tie, especially Barkley, of whom picked up the Man of the Match award for his two goals and assist on the night, a dominant display from Ross. Callum had himself a night too, picking up an assist for Barkley, who steered CHO’s shot goal-bound.

A couple of interesting stats for you:

  • Barkley’s first goal was the first England goal scored and set up by Chelsea players since September 2007, when Shaun Wright-Phillips netted from Joe Cole’s assist.

  • At 18 years 138 days, Hudson-Odoi became the second-youngest male player to start a competitive match for England after Wayne Rooney against Turkey in April 2003 (17 years 160 days).

2230  Source – The Guardian

If you were on “Football Twitter” at the time of both games, especially yesterday’s encounter, you would have probably seen #Sarri nearly as much as a Chelsea gameday. Why? The same question many are asking when seeing the dazzling performances of CHO and Barkley in an England shirt, these not quite as replicable as their performances in their club careers. What’s the difference?

  1. Gareth Southgate’s show of faith in Hudson-Odoi.

Southgate has never shied from giving the youth an opportunity as England manager, he has gained many plaudits for doing so. Despite CHO’s lack of game-time under club coach Maurizio Sarri, Southgate called up the youngster, albeit within a good opportunity to do so with numerous injuries to Southgate’s original squad, and the weakened opponents they were set to face. Nevertheless, Southgate gave Hudson-Odoi an extended opportunity, featuring him in both games, starting him in the second, and reaping the rewards of CHO’s new-found confidence with two excellent displays.

Must Sarri now show the same kind of faith in CHO? Yes. Quite simply, he has too. I’ve advocated in the past for patience with CHO, with him being so young and the competition he faces at the club level. However, on recent displays from the trusted at Chelsea, and Callum’s recent displays of his ever-present potential, I believe he must find himself in the starting XI more often under Sarri.

2. Barkley let off the shackles by Southgate. 

In this international break, Ross Barkley took the opportunity to remind his fans, his doubters, and perhaps himself, how much potential he possesses, and that the same attacking excellence he displayed consistently last in his Everton days, is still within him. Southgate mentioned in his post-match interview how whilst Sarri has improved Barkley in many ways (of which I agree with, and believe that Ross has improved as a general footballer under Sarri), he decided to let Ross express himself further in the final third, to allow him to fully stamp his authority in the game, which he did. With learning a new system, and seemingly put under attacking restraints at times, Barkley’s attacking ability has been somewhat sheltered by Sarri. Barkley deserves freedom, to show his true potential.

What happens to Barkley in SW6? Barkley must continue to improve his overall game under the stewardship of Sarri, whilst now introducing more of that attacking mastery which makes him so dangerous in the final third. Whilst Ruben Loftus-Cheek is subsequently picking up form, and deserves a chance to start and solidify himself in that RCM position for me, a return of the form Barkley displayed in his Everton days, accompanied with his new-found further tactical understanding, can make him a great asset for Chelsea for years to come, with time on his side. Sarri also must allow this to happen.

e2cf4b86e6b42e855664c533f1338735                       Source – The Daily Hunt

In conclusion, this international break proved that when presented with the confidence and right opportunity, both CHO and Barkley can star in their own ways. Chelsea is lucky to possess both these talents, with years on their side, and plenty of potential to grow even further. The club, and its manager must now nurture it in the correct way, to reap the rewards for years to come.

Written by Dan McCarthy @maccasport