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After an impressive breakthrough season, Mason Mount can make his mark for Chelsea at Wembley

July 29, 2020

MASON Mount has become the first Chelsea academy graduate ever to make 50 appearances in their debut season, and he capped his maiden Stamford Bridge campaign in style last weekend, scoring a free-kick and registering an assist in a 2-0 victory over Wolves which secured a top-four finish for Frank Lampard’s men.

It was Mount’s seventh goal and fifth assist of his first-ever Premier League season, a breakout year for the 21-year-old midfielder. Yet his place in Chelsea’s strongest line-up next season has been cast into doubt by the moves the club are making in the transfer market.

Deals for Moroccan playmaker Hakim Ziyech and rapid German striker Timo Werner have already been wrapped up, while it seems Kai Havertz, the highly rated and versatile 21-year-old Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder, is next on Roman Abramovich’s wish list.

In light of Christian Pulisic’s outstanding form since football returned from its coronavirus-enforced hiatus, many regard Mount’s position in the team going forward as vulnerable. But Mount has demonstrated enough productivity, development and reliability to deserve to be one of the constants around whom Chelsea’s new pieces are slotted.

As with any young player adapting to a new level of competition, Mount’s form has dipped at times, but he has recovered to finish the season as strongly as he began it. And, despite his relative inexperience, he is clearly one of Lampard’s most trusted charges, having featured in all but one of Chelsea’s league games.

Mount’s discipline and versatility – comfortable and effective as a No.8, No.10 or when cutting in from the left wing – make him a valuable, malleable option for Lampard as he plots for next term. And the precise free-kick against Wolves not only demonstrated another string to Mount’s bow but also his commitment to improving. As a teenager in the Blues’ academy, he would spend hours after training attempting to replicate the dead-ball technique he’d seen first-team star David Luiz perform.

"He will definitely get better because he is so young," Lampard recently said of the six-cap England midfielder. "When a player comes in and plays in their breakthrough year and is consistently in the team people sometimes treat them as though they are older than they are. But he is still young.

"You saw his technique from the free-kick. His is a special technique, and only top players can strike the ball that way. His all-round game for the season has been brilliant. His work ethic and training daily is brilliant. He has already contributed a great amount, but he will also get a lot better. This is just the start for Mason at Chelsea."

The appointment of Lampard coupled with Chelsea’s transfer ban heralded the long-awaited ascent to the senior team of several graduates from the club’s vaunted academy. But some are finding their stock has fallen somewhat as the season draws to a close.

Injuries have robbed centre-back Fikayo Tomori of the momentum he generated in the first half of the campaign, while Tammy Abraham has started only one Premier League game since the restart. And Callum Hudson-Odoi, whom Chelsea fought so hard to retain last year amid interest from Bayern Munich, has started only seven league games all season.

This hasn’t been the case for Mount, whose durability is highlighted by the struggles of his colleagues. But the former Derby County and Vitesse loanee isn’t about to rest on his laurels.

“If I look back at performances in the Champions League I know I can do better,” Mount said, identifying one area for improvement. “This is definitely a learning season for me. I had never played it before this season, I had only watched it on TV.

“This year I’ve been lucky enough to play in it and have learned so much. The games are so much quicker than normal matches. There’s the build up, the lights, it all goes so quick. I can go into next season knowing I played a few games now.”

Mount’s unassuming demeanour belies his ruthless tenacity. It was his aggression as much as his technical skills that caught the eye of the Chelsea scout who first spotted him as a six-year-old in Portsmouth, and were it not for his football talent, he might well have followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and taken up boxing.

When competition for playing time intensifies at Stamford Bridge next season, Mount won’t shy away from fighting for his place. A star turn in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Arsenal would be the perfect way to strike a decisive blow.