Frank Lampard chose to pack his starting lineup with age and experience last night, featuring three players over 30 and a bunch of others in their late-20s. Ben Chilwell, Christian Pulisic, and Mason Mount were the only three starters under 26. It was certainly an unexpected departure from the Youth Revolution™, even amid the team’s recent struggles, which Lampard has been attributing to classic youth foibles likes lack of consistency, effort, and concentration.
It was therefore a bit ironic that Chelsea’s youth carried the day in the end, with Callum Hudson-Odoi making a key difference off the bench, and Mount finding the back of the net late on (from a Chilwell deflected cross) for the only goal of the game after rattling the crossbar earlier in the match. Mount has now scored in back-to-back games, and he’s continued to be just about the only youth beyond reproach for the head coach.
People of course accuse Lampard of heavy favoritism when it comes to his most special son, but perhaps Mason actually deserves every bit of favoritism that comes his way.
“It was very apt that Mason got the goal because his overall performance in the game was outstanding. [...] It wasn’t quite there for us until Mason’s goal. Like I say, I thought he was the outstanding player.
“[His] performance all round was fantastic. He has been very, very good for us in the past year, this year. He is a big example of why I talk about youth. Mason turned 22 years old last week, the age I came to Chelsea at. I wasn’t blowing the world away in my first way my first year or so, Mason already has so many games under his belt. [His] effort, attitude and quality of play today was outstanding.”
While Lampard rightly points out that things weren’t really happening for Chelsea until Mount’s goal, it was actually the introduction of Callum Hudson-Odoi three minutes earlier that actually got the team going.
We had spent the previous 75 minutes passing it around a ton, mostly sideways and backwards, without really making it difficult for Fulham to keep us out, even with just ten men. Hudson-Odoi finally forced the issue, be that by taking on a man or switching the ball from one flank to another in just one kick rather than three. A bit of positive impetus was all the spark we needed, and he delivered.
Lampard has been harping on the youngster all season, first asking more defensive effort, then asking for more cutting edge, and then asking for more consistency. Hudson-Odoi has been answering those challenges despite his inconsistent playing time — just 2 starts in the league all season among 13 appearances! — but Lampard seems unconvinced still. And we know he can be convinced; we just have to look at Mount!
“It was difficult [to leave out] Callum because there has been a real uplift in his form. That’s a sign of his development, he is coming on, going by people, and showing confidence. And a lot of that will be down to the injury he had to get over last season. [...] I am delighted with how he is playing at the minute and he is approaching it in the right way. He will get many, many minutes for us.”
And sure, dropping either Christian Pulisic or Hakim Ziyech isn’t easy either, especially now that they’re both healthy and fit. But despite their injuries, they are well ahead of Callum in terms of Premier League minutes (785 vs. 529 vs. 343, respectively) — and that may not change against Leicester City on Tuesday either.
“Hakim obviously gives us something different and was outstanding when fit. Christian is always a threat. When I have the three, there is one who maybe can’t start the game. But they must then come on and impact the game. Generally, a winger is where you make your changes.
“Yes, I had Leicester in mind and we will see how players react in the next day or two. In this busy, busy period players will have to accept being an impact player sometimes and then come in and start.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
And that’s all well and good in theory, but we’ll have to actually see it in action as well.