One of Thomas Tuchel’s first acts as Chelsea was to drop Mason Mount to the bench. It didn’t matter that the midfielder had started the Blues’ last 10 matches in a row, that a rest was always likely to come soon, the German’s decision for his first match in charge against Wolves fed the ever-hungry narrative machine.
At that time, the narrative was that Mount had been Frank Lampard’s teacher’s pet. The 22-year-old was certainly a favourite of Lampard’s, as demonstrated by the run of starts before his sacking, but opposition fans derided Mount for being an anomaly in a squad otherwise packed full of world-class talent.
Tuchel, it was expected, would see this and so his immediate call to leave Mount out of his first starting line-up was taken as a sign of things to come. First impressions, however, aren’t always right and the England international has in fact lifted his game to an even higher level under the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss.
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Mount’s opener against Porto in Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg was the biggest, most significant he has scored as a Chelsea player to date. Its execution, which saw the 22-year-old set up the low strike into the far corner of the net with a backheel turn into space, was the sign of a player oozing confidence.
Far from being found out by Tuchel, the German has harnessed Mount to further improve his game. He has given the midfielder even more responsibility. With no orthodox central striker picked to start against Porto, Tuchel counted on Mason to provide goal threat, which is exactly what he did by breaking the deadlock.
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All over the pitch, Tuchel is still formulating his strongest XI with the German yet to find the right balance in the attacking third, but Mount is one of only a handful of players assured of his place in the side right now. Barring injury, it seems certain he will be Chelsea’s Player of the Year.
It also seems likely Mount will command a place in the England line-up for Euro 2020 such is the form he has found of late. In a three-man midfield unit, Mount is the one who gives Gareth Southgate’s side drive and creativity through the centre of the pitch. He provides England with some much-needed balance.
Contrary to common belief at the time, Lampard’s departure is one of the best things that could have happened to Mount. Any praise of the midfielder was previously met by unfair and lazy accusations of favouritism. Mount was widely seen as a typical over-hyped English youngster.
Now, though, these accusations have faded. Tuchel has no ulterior motive to keep picking Mount. He didn’t bring him through the youth academy. He didn’t have him on loan at Derby County. Tuchel is only concerned with picking the team best equipped to win games and Mount is one of his key difference makers.
Mount now has eight goals and four assists to his name this season having become the youngest Chelsea player ever to score in a Champions League knockout match, yet he still believes he can improve his numbers.
“I’m always working on my finishing,” he told BT Sport after the win in Seville.“I don’t think you can work on it enough. In training, I’m trying to shoot as much as I can because that’s always a part of my game where I can improve on and score more goals.”
These are the words of a player who has been given the confidence, and the tools, to demand better of himself in every game he plays. The question posed of Mount is no longer whether he needs Lampard to succeed at Chelsea, it’s how far can he go now that Lampard is gone?
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