After the 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth two weekends ago, Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard took a page out of José Mourinho’s book, and made it clear in a very public way that he wanted more from his players. He wanted more quality, more precision, more dedication, and most importantly, more balls.
His message had the intended effect — ironically enough against Mourinho’s new team.
The team’s massive “cojones” were pergaps exemplified best by none other than Mason “Frank Lampard’s Son” Mount. The young midfielder had been struggling for consistent form after starting the season so well, but on Sunday, he was at his best — or at least the best we’ve seen from him yet (hopefully there’s even more to come; he’s just 20 years old after all)!
In any case, Mount explained afterwards how he and his teammates took the manager’s criticizing, challenging, and ultimately inspiring words to heart.
“That reaction was key. [Lampard] said after the last game that we didn’t have enough balls. We wanted to get on the ball and play – to show everyone we’re not a team who will get pushed over easy, that we have that fight within us. People were doubting us. But we knew the Spurs game could be the turning point. The [recent] performances weren’t good enough but this was the perfect game to show our mentality and belief.”
“We knew we had to stay in fourth place, give the fans an early Christmas present. You don’t want to start falling back and having to worry about what is below.”
As is usually the case, there were multiple factors that contributed to the team’s exceptional 2-0 win. In addition to the mentality, focus, and dedication from the players, the manager got his tactics spot on and even surprised the once highly regarded master tactician in the opposite dugout.
Mount may not have scored to get closer to his 10-goal target for the season, but he was front and center to much of Chelsea’s good work in the final third, as well as in our own half on the rare occasions when we had to defend a Spurs foray forward. He keyed the press, he created with the ball, and worked hard without it — a “non-luxury” No.10, as he had put it recently. It was truly a here, there, everywhere performance, and he wasn’t alone in that regard.
“You saw how tight and together we were as a team. We knew where to be in terms of positions, the movements off the ball. That’s the important thing with a change of formation – everyone needs to know where to be, how to press and how to work off the ball because we came up against a team who are good on the ball. They had to go longer sometimes and we had to get back in and work off that second ball.”
-Mason Mount; source: Guardian
Now of course the key is to keep this going. Next up is a home game against Southampton on Boxing Day and Stamford Bridge has been anything but comforting as of late. Chelsea have shown the ability to play to the level of the competition, both good and bad. We have to start playing to our own capabilities, and do so consistently, if we are to keep ahead of the chasing pack in the top four race.