As we approach the halfway point of the season, we find Chelsea at a crossroads. Will we take the path less traveled and win with youth, or will we take the more familiar route? (Where “win” is defined as finish top-four, maybe cause an upset in the Champions League, and see just how far we can get in the FA Cup.)
One suspects the next 7-10 days will have a lot to do with that choice, as London derbies sandwich a home game against Southampton on Boxing Day. Spurs, with Mourinho, and Arsenal with a new manager bounce await.
Not too long ago, we might have been more confident heading into these festive crackers. But the Chelsea of October, winners of seven in a row in all competitions, have long been replaced by the Chelsea of winters’ coming (4 wins in 11, just 1 in 5 in the league).
Individual performances have dipped commensurately with the results on the scoreboard, including from young Mason Mount, who was the talk of the town early doors, alongside Tammy Abraham. And while Abraham has more or less maintained his levels, Mount’s been a fair bit less consistent. And that’s not just me saying it — Lampard’s team selections have rotated the 20-year-old more often than not lately as well.
But if we are to find success this season, one suspects Mount will have to play a key role. We’re unbeaten in games where he’s directly contributed to a goal — 5 goals and 2 assists in 6 wins and 1 draw, all in the league (where we have 9 wins and 2 draws for the season). Fortunately, he’s targeting at least just as many more in the second half of the season.
“I always set a target of 10 goals too — double figures — no matter who it’s with. I achieved that last season and the year before, so hopefully I can do that this time as well.
“If you’re stepping up a level, then you’ve got to go to that level with your performances as well. The players around you are going to be better so you have to be better as well. Ten goals was always something I felt kept me focused and kept me looking forward, at any level.”
Of course, Mount’s game is so much more than just goals and assists. When at his best, his work rate and pressing keys Lampard’s high-tempo, aggressive gameplan. And while that’s not just something Mount does for Lampard — it’s something that he’s been cultivating in his game since an early age, thanks in part to his father — it’s certainly something that has played a great part in winning the manager’s trust at both Derby County and now, at Chelsea.
“My dad always said when I was younger that you can’t just be a luxury number 10 because you see so many players like that in academy football. You see so many players who want to get on the ball, do all the good stuff, but never want to track back, work hard or do the defensive side. You see that so much and he said to me that you need to do the other side of the game too, so that was always in my head.”
“My first goal [this season was] to go away with the first team, work hard, show the manager I was ready to play and get as many minutes as I could in pre-season. I knew that would give me the best chance to show him that, when the season started, I could step in and play a big part.”
-Mason Mount; Source: Chelsea FC
Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, that Mason can rediscover his best form ... maybe as soon as this Sunday?