The first game in any manager’s tenure at a club is often quite telling. Who does he like the look of? Who hasn’t impressed? Who could soon be heading for pastures new?
Having established himself as one of the key men in Frank Lampard’s side, Mason Mount was a surprise inclusion on the Chelsea bench for Thomas Tuchel’s maiden game in charge of the club against Wolves last month.
Whether the decision was made with the fact he’d played the full 90 minutes in all of Chelsea’s last 13 league outings in mind we’ll never quite know, though you’d be forgiven for assuming any new boss would opt to field their strongest team in their first game in charge.
After all, the longer the wait for a first win goes on the more the pressure begins to…mount.
The youngster’s brief cameo towards the end of the draw with Wolves was enough to earn him a start at home to Burnley the following game, and he was yet again fielded from the off in their 1-0 win over London rivals Spurs on Thursday evening.
Critics lambasted the Chelsea man’s status as an automatic starter during Lampard’s time at the club – and in truth the former Blues boss did little to dispel the rumours of Mount being the teacher’s pet as he waxed lyrical over him just about every time he was faced with a microphone – but the England international is beginning to prove that Lampard was right. Mount is integral to Chelsea’s progression.
The 22-year-old played as a false nine at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, picking up little pockets of space between the Spurs backline and midfield.
His movement and guile proved too much for Spurs all evening, with Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld too cautious to step out of defence to pick him up and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg unable to track his runs.
Far from content with sitting between the Spurs centre-back pairing all evening, Mount dropped back into midfield whenever his team were without the ball – something which really didn’t happen very often if truth be known – with Timo Werner pulling in from the left hand-side to occupy Dier and Alderweireld.
Throughout the evening, Mount engaged in numerous tussles with the man mountain that is Tanguy Ndombele, refusing to be shoved off the ball by the Spurs man.
Meanwhile, whenever he pushed further forward he was just too quick, too sharp and too cunning for Alderweireld, with the Belgian chasing shadows at times in his bid to curtail the youngster’s progress.
The real victory on the evening goes to Tuchel, with the German boss masterminding the system which Jose Mourinho’s side simply had no answers for.
But for said system to work it required a lynchpin, a player integral to the team who the rest of the side could feed and work off – that man was Mason Mount.
All in all it was an absolutely superb performance from the former Derby man. It was a showing full of guts, energy and quality, and he’s undoubtedly the most important player at the club.