Football Features

“Manager’s dream” Mason Mount helps Chelsea take control of Champions League quarter-final

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:28, 7 April 2021

Mason Mount was the star of the show as Chelsea beat Porto 2-0 on Wednesday night to take control of their Champions League quarter-final.

The Blues were outplayed for large parts of the match but took the lead in the first half through Mount, who continues to prove he is the best player in Chelsea’s squad.

Ever since his first-team debut under Frank Lampard last season, Mount has had to deal with frankly ridiculous criticism even among sections of the Chelsea support. He was only being picked constantly because he’s “Lampard’s son”, they said. Well he must also be Gareth Southgate and Thomas Tuchel’s son, because they all pick him with the same regularity as Lampard.

Or, and hear me out here, maybe Lampard, Southgate and Tuchel all have Mount in their team consistently because he is one of the best players available for Chelsea and England. Well, there’s no maybe about it. He is one of England’s best midfielders right now and a certainty for Chelsea’s Player of the Year award, and probably Young Player of the Year too because he’s still only 22.

Mount is one of those players that will give a manager everything they ask. Do you need someone to do the dirty work and track back to help the defence? Mount will do that. Do you need a player to be the link between the midfield and attack? Mount’s your man. Do you need someone to play as a ‘False-ish Nine’, being one of the key attacking players both in getting the goals and pressing high up the pitch? As Mount has been showing under Tuchel, he can do that too.

When Mount didn’t start Tuchel’s first game in charge of Chelsea, against Wolverhampton Wanderers back in January, some celebrated the end of “Lampard’s son” and predicted he would be falling out the team. But it didn’t take Tuchel too long to realise that Mount gives him everything he needs. It was shown again when Chelsea lost to West Bromwich Albion at the weekend, a game Mount started on the bench and had to be brought on with Tuchel’s side terrible (though even he couldn’t save them then).

Against Porto on Wednesday night, Mount was back in the starting XI as one of the attacking trio, a False-ish nine behind Kai Havertz with Timo Werner. It was a frustrating first half for Chelsea and they really struggled to string together passes up the pitch so it took a moment of magic from Mount to give them the lead.

The Englishman received the ball on the edge of the area from Jorginho and absolutely nullified the defender with an excellent first touch on the spin, taking him inside the box. With his very next touch, Mount drilled the ball low into the bottom left corner of the net through Agustin Marchesin who will be unhappy with his failure to keep it out.

It was Mount’s first ever goal in the Champions League and his eighth of the season across all competitions, five of which have come since Tuchel took charge. Across all competitions, Mount is the top scorer during Tuchel’s short reign at Stamford Bridge so far, two ahead of Jorginho and three clear of Hakim Ziyech and Olivier Giroud, the only other players to score more than once.

The goal was the result of a lot of work from Mount on improving his finishing, having been challenged by Tuchel to be more clinical following a disappointing showing in a 1-0 win over Tottenham at the start of February. Back then, Mount had three shots but hit the target with just one, failing to trouble Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal. Against Porto, it was 100%, one shot, one on target, one goal.

“I’m always working on it,” Mount told BT Sport of the work he has been doing on his finishing.

“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 part of my game where I think I can improve on and score more goals. So I’m very happy to score one tonight.”

There is still work to be done on Mount’s finishing, but the Englishman has been one of Tuchel’s best all-round attacking players. As well as leading for goals, only Werner (28) has taken more shots than Mount’s 27 in the Premier League and Champions League since Tuchel took charge, though the German has only scored one goal. Mount has also scored all three of the Big Chances he has had in those competitions under Tuchel, more than any other Chelsea player.

And let’s not forget what he can do with the ball at his feet in the build up to goals, not just for himself. Mount has created more chances than any other Chelsea player in the league and Champions League under Tuchel with 24, seven more than any other player including one against Porto, and three Big Chances. He has also completed 14 take-ons, fourth for Chelsea under Tuchel, bettered only by Mateo Kovacic, Reece James and N’Golo Kante (all of whom have more room to take players on than Mount).

Mount’s performance against Porto was another silencer for those who do continue to doubt the 22-year-old and his abilities, or refuse to accept just how good he is. But at least the managers are seeing it.

“He’s a manager’s dream because, not only has he got this natural ability and he affects the game in the final third, the imagination to take [the goal] on his back foot on the blind side of the defender and then the ability to strike,” former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole said on BT Sport after the game.

“Not only has he got all of that, he’s a manager’s dream because he does the tactics to the tee. Off the ball he was so much better. In that difficult spell just before they changed managers, when nobody was playing well, he stood up so he’s a leader as well.”

“He’s a player that knows how to play so many different positions and he is a top quality player,” Glenn Hoddle added. “And he’s proving that, I don’t know why there are any sort of question marks about him.”

For Rio Ferdinand, the night provided foundation for further improvements from Mount, but this time something his teammates need to bring, understanding fully how the Englishman plays and his strengths.

“What I like about him is his movement off the ball to get on the ball,” Ferdinand said.

“I think once the other players start realising that he actually makes movements to get beyond the defenders on the other team, and start playing that ball, a little bit longer than 10 yards to feet, he’ll get more opportunities at goal because he mades run today that no one saw and he was in.”

Ben Chilwell added to Mount’s first-half goal with a well-taken finish late on, putting Chelsea in firm control ahead of next week’s second leg at the same stadium.


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