Amidst the typical Berkshire conditions most friendly to Chelsea, Frank Lampard set out to examine his modus operandi from yet another lens when his side faced-off against a spirited Reading outfit. Although a whole lot was not on the line, there were a few holes left to be plugged and unearthed from the visitors' perspective.
The Blues have indeed fought hard in various circumstances during pre-season, against a variety of opponents, but it's always good to bag some wins under one's belt heading into a wearying Premier League season.
Not only did a lanky 20-year-old youngster named Mason Mount do his confidence a world of good, but also stimulated hope among the Chelsea faithful with his promising display - a sight that is largely quotidian now in pre-season. At the end of the thrilling fixture that read 4-3 on the board, it was Mount's brace that took the away side over the line.
Pre-season is perhaps a very important phase, significantly for a new manager coming in. Apart from assessing the players and viewing almost every footballing detail with a microscope, it's about finding rhythm, structure, and substance within the squad.
Fair to say, Mason Mount has infused the same and made a staggering case for himself. But, what makes him so special?
Acknowledging his ascent to the top
Imagine young kids at a school. From that very age at elementary, they grapple for their spots in the team, hope to rise and cement their place in their institution's sports setup. And then there's Mason Mount, who has come off the back of fierce competition at every stage of his career.
Right from the U-8s, he experienced competition. Most certainly, his guile stood by itself, which in turn handed the brightest spotlight to him. Certainly, Mount was going to be the best among his peers.
As the Chelsea system goes, the then-teenager was loaned out to Vitesse Arnhem, where he shone with an awe-inspiring 14 goals and nine assists. The Englishman was eventually lured by his academy boss Jody Morris and current Chelsea coach Lampard to Derby.
'Super Frankie' was always going to be challenged in his first season at management, but the legendary former midfielder, just like in his playing days, pulled something out his hat even from the touchline. He brought about a sense of urgency within the Rams' brand of football and infused his philosophy of intensity, pace, and movement in the channels.
Mount was undoubtedly destined to be of assistance to Lampard. Slip his goals and assists under the table for now, and just think of Derby's dip in form and lack of cohesion when the marksman was injured for about two and a half months.
What makes Mount so dexterous?
Mount was so dearly missed by his fellow Rams and gaffer, of course. But seriously, what has brought him to the Chelsea first team with him asking questions of the policies at the club and bolstering his polemic?
Mount has jazzed up exactly what has been the missing piece in Chelsea's puzzle since, well, how do we put it? Lampard's departure. 14 goals in 39 appearances in the Eredivisie followed by 11 goals in 44 appearances in the arduous Championship. He's got goals in him. He's got an astonishing degree of footballing perspicacity.
First of all, the youngster possesses immaculate technique. He's got a spectacular touch, poise, and dribbling prowess. He's good on the dead ball, clever with the football - both with his twinkling feet and passing radar. Perhaps not the bulkiest of midfielders around, Mount's applicability and expertise help him shield the ball and protect it.
He's got the killer pass up his sleeves, but also the proficiency with respect to his timing. Off the ball, Mount is a tireless worker, who comes on his own while playing behind the striker or beside the number 10.
Last but most importantly, he exudes fine finesse in front of goal, and Lampard-like tendency to find spaces down the edge of the box.
How can Lampard make the most of Mount's flair?
Chelsea have been hit by a transfer ban, and not many would argue against Lampard's appointment, as he along with Jody Morris and the rest of the staff know Chelsea through and through. Talks between himself and the hierarchy are expected to go smoothly, and his demands are likely to be fulfilled.
That's where Mount has imperiously benefited, owing to the transfer ban and the fact that his Derby coach adores his style of play and commitment.
Lampard knows full well how to use his midfielders. We've already seen the 4-1-2-1-2 formation with the midfield diamond, a more conventional 4-2-3-1 and the 4-3-3 he deployed at Derby.
He must provide the license to Mount, ask him to take risks and tell him that despite the complications of maintaining a specific defensive shape while on the ball, one run into the 18-yard box sprinkled with the right connection could mean three vital points.
More so, Lampard's diamond midfield and perhaps, the 4-3-3 suits Mount's style of play, as he gets to pounce at half-chances, recover, help out the deeper midfielders and exploits spaces to run.
Can Mason nail down a spot in the Chelsea squad?
Yes, he definitely can. Before we move on, let's understand that Lampard is sure to tinker formations and systems every time, and probably, once or twice within the 90 minutes of a game itself. With due respect to 'Sarrismo', this marque of the game holds greater flexibility.
Therefore, a lot of midfielders will be required. Mount understands the coach's drills, and he's shown the right degree of intelligence and desire to get in there. At the moment, taking away the starting spot from him, for all he's done in his loan spells and pre-season with his tactical brilliance, would be cruel.
Pre-season might be delusional in terms of the level of intensity displayed by both teams, but one can simply not take away the fact that Mason Mount has been supplying the goods consistently, tactically winning battles on the pitch and doing every single thing required of him with precision.
There's fierce competition to play ahead of Kante with the presence of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mason Mount, Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic in the ranks, but Mount has surely got it in him to do what he has done so far in his career - rise, rise and continue to rise.Published 30 Jul 2019, 19:08 IST