Mason Mount rediscovers best form heading into Christmas period
It was during the opening period of Wednesday's encounter with Aston Villa when Mason Mount accelerated through the centre of the pitch – like a turbo engine – the midfielder has a pulsating burst of speed when he gets going. Mount picked up the ball not too far from goal, he looked up and his eyes were only trained towards glory. His left-footed drive blazed into the Shed Upper to the glee of the away support.
Soon the jibbing would follow from the boisterous Villa faithful teased Mount by stating he wasn't as good as their talisman and leader, Jack Grealish.
Grealish and Mount would tussle throughout the evening for the ball, both English talents aiming to be the catalysts for their boyhood club's success. Despite Grealish being three years older – showing his elegance and danger whenever he picked up the ball – it would be the younger midfielder who would take the plaudits on the night.
Football has a way of quickly swinging the pendulum and bringing a moment of irony. That continued chanting would come back to bite the Midlands side not long into the second half, when Mount's eyes would once again light up at the sight of glory. A cheeky little dinked chip floated the ball into the chest of Tammy Abraham whose lay-off was probably the best early Christmas present the striker could've gifted his peer.
His right-footed volley flied into the top of the net, even Tom Heaton's fine second half display couldn't stop Mount's pile driver. The Matthew Harding Lower erupted and Mount was on his bike sliding with glee after producing a moment of brilliance.
That glee may have been infused with a bit of relief within in. Mount's winner on Wednesday night was his first goal in two months – his last coming in the 4-1 win over Southampton in early October. Mount has suffered a slight dip in form in front of goal, four days earlier he swung violently in a rushed attempt to claw a point back for Chelsea as they fell to defeat against West Ham in one of their poorest outings of the campaign.
Mount's individual performance encapsulated the Blues – off-kilter, under-par and without the required finishing touch.
Though you could draw the same comparison out of the no.19 on a bitterly cold west London evening where the Blues clinched a vitally craved three points after back-to-back Premier League defeats.
Mount was energetic, hungry, vibrant, dangerous and most notably – clinical when the chance came.
Throughout the entirety of the game Mount looked back to his early-season best, hounding the Villa defence at any opportunity, nibbling at their heels. His confident flicks, interlinking with his fellow attackers were coming off and his miss during the first half only sharpened his eye when the chance eventually fell his way in the second.
He is vital to Chelsea's press, joining a front four of Abraham, Pulisic and Willian who all are tasked with the responsibility to be quick, dynamic and add goal-threat to assist Abraham who netted his 12th of the season on the night. Mount can at times be found ahead of the no.9, looking comfortable in central areas, driving forward in between the lines to drag defenders out of position.
A lot like Lampard's Chelsea, the midfielder is uncertain at times, his talent is still raw and he's as likely to blast his efforts into the upper tier as he is into the top corner, but that comes with age. Lampard can only be pleased seeing his midfielder have the confidence and belief to back himself and aim for goal, just like he did so iconically for the club for over a decade.
Chelsea have desperately lacked a regular goal-scoring midfielder since Lampard's departure. Another academy graduate, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, has come closest to taking up that mantle when he broke into the starting eleven in the Spring under Maurizio Sarri but a long-term has injury halted his progress.
Mount has taken that spot and looks every bit a talent capable of providing that output for many years to come in Blue.
Despite the turn in weather, the victory over Villa felt like we'd jumped back to the opening weeks of the season with both Mount and Abraham starring in a Chelsea win. The two when on-form act as the heartbeat of all that is good and exciting about Frank Lampard's squad.
Lampard has been eager to consistently lay a sense of caution and perspective with Chelsea's brightest young stars. Mount has a long way to go and to expect the finished article for a player only three months into his Premier League career is fickle and unrealistic. Mount, whose harshest critics have come online rather than in the stands, would've been silent come full time in midweek.
"It wasn’t just the goal, it was the threat he had from the edge of the box, his link-up and his winning the ball back in high areas which is his game. I thought he had a really good second half," Lampard said after the win.
"He shouldn’t be measured solely on goals. They are part of his game, his all-round game was what we would expect."
Mount's all round-game optimised the Blues best aspects on Wednesday night. With the hectic and intense festive period now in full swing, it is important Chelsea's key men head into it in good form.
Lampard is trying to cultivate an environment which is all about shared responsibility to find goals. Solving the hole left by Eden Hazard was never going to be easy, but Lampard is finding ways to maximise the amount of goals within his squad and one of the key assets within that is Mason Mount – who will be aiming for glory once more when steps onto the field at Goodison Park on Saturday.