How many times can you replace Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic and vice versa before people start to question whether you really are a tactical genius?
In Maurizio Sarri’s case it appears to be eight times since Christmas.
As Chelsea whimpered out of the FA Cup to Man United last night Sarri was taking some serious heat for his uninspiring substitutions.
It descended into the Chelsea fans singing “you don’t know what you’re doing” as Sarri brought on Barkley instead of rolling the dice with Callum Hudson-Odoi.
The heat increased significantly when Sarri decided to make Davide Zappacosta his third and final sub in the 82nd minute.
With Chelsea chasing two goals, plenty of fans inside the stadium were desperate to see the 18-year-old come on and offer something different in attack.
As we saw against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup, Hudson-Odoi has got the requisite skills to score absolute bangers.
But since that glorious strike at the end of January, Hudson-Odoi has barely been given a sniff of first team action.
It is a real head scratcher as Chelsea refused to allow the English youngster to leave for Bayern Munich in January after the German giants made a giant £35m offer.
After watching Jadon Sancho blossom with first team minutes galore at Borussia Dortmund, Hudson-Odoi was targeting a move to the Bundesliga to join up with all the young English talent getting senior action.
Instead Chelsea took a hardline stance and made him stay for the remainder of the season at least.
Sarri’s treatment of Hudson-Odoi since the transfer window shut has shown exactly why he wanted a move away from the club that blooded him in the first place.
As Nizaar Kinsella pointed out on Twitter, the Chelsea academy graduate played 214 minutes in the five months leading up to Bayern’s offer.
While the transfer window was open Sarri gave Hudson-Odoi a full 90 minutes twice and played him in big league matches against Newcastle and Arsenal.
However, since the end of January Sarri has suddenly slammed the door shut on the first team – affording the youngster just 19 minutes of game time in over three weeks.
So while Hudson-Odoi could have been settling into his lederhosen in Muncih preparing to possibly make the team for a huge clash against Liverpool in the Champions League, he was instead side-eyeing Sarri from the Chelsea bench as they were stuffed at Stamford Bridge.
It is a sign of strange times at Chelsea.
Clearly they want to keep their most talented youth products at the club, but the strategy of relentless loan moves does nothing to improve their development as players.
Even if they do get near the first team, there is always an unwillingness to trust youth with Roman Abramovich’s axe ready to swing at a moment’s notice.
If CHO doesn’t begin racking up first team minutes, which is unlikely if Sarri is under huge pressure, expect to see him pushing for a move just as hard in the summer, if not harder.
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