When Frank Lampard arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 2019, there were a lot of questions raised. This club is known for its ruthlessness at hiring and firing coaches. Chelsea under Avram Grant finished 2nd in the league and runners-up in the Champions League and he was still fired. Carlo Ancelotti guided Chelsea to a third league title, creating a free-flowing team, but was sacked the following season. Roberto di Matteo guided Chelsea to a maiden Champions League title, but that goodwill could not buty him time in the hot seat. Despite his differences with the board, Antonio Conte's two years in charge yielded a Premier League title, and two consecutive FA Cup final appearances, the second of which they won.
If winning Europe's premier competition does not afford one of Chelsea's stars of the yesteryears some leeway, then could Lampard expect better? Turns out, patience runs out even with the club's record goalscorer.
Atrocious Academy Record
In the early days of Abramovich, centre-back Robert Huth and midfielder Scott Parker were amongst those who were in the fringes of the first team. Huth was part of the 2004-05 and 2005-06 title-winning squads, and incredibly, won a third Premier League as an integral part of Leicester historic side in 2015/16. Parker, meanwhile, is Fulham's coach. There were more. Nathan Ake came into the squad at a very young age, being part of Chelsea's 2012/23 Europa winning squad. But after a few years in and around, he joined Bournemouth. He has since joined Manchester City and is on course to add a Premier League title to his resume.
In his second spell, Mourinho took a shine to Ruben Loftus-Cheek who was part of the squad under him, as well as under Antonio Conte. After an encouraging season as a key midfielder in Maurizio Sarri's side, an ACL injury set him back by a year. He is back out on loan, at struggling Fulham. In between, Conte gave Nathaniel Chalobah game time, but he was sold in the summer.
The Academy Revolution
To be fair to Maurizio Sarri, he was the one who integrated Callum Hudson-Odoi into the first team. He only made 10 appearances before picking up an ACL injury late in the season. In fact, he was close to leaving for German giants Bayern Munich. It's Lampard who really brought about that revolution. Mason Mount, Reece James and Tammy Abraham have majorly benefited, while Hudson-Odoi has continued his development as well. Billy Gilmour, Marc Guehi, Tino Anjorin and Armando Broja have all made senior appearances under Lampard.
Indeed, this is Lampard's legacy. He took a group of young academy stars and turned them into regular first-teamers. Abraham finished as Chelsea's top scorer in 2019/20 with 18 goals, 15 of them coming in the Premier League. He is once again Chelsea's top scorer so far this season, at the time of writing. Reece James, meanwhile has earned rave reviews. His crossing ability has impressed both pundits and England coach Gareth Southgate. Southgate, in fact, seems to prefer Reece to Liverpool's Premier League and Champions league winning right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The most impressive of the lot, however, has undoubtedly been Mason Mount. The young midfielder stayed put at the club despite everything. His father, in fact, had suggested he leave after watching the dire progression rate at Chelsea. But he stayed put, and his resilience has paid off.
He was one of the brightest talents in the academy. A loan move to Vitesse followed. The Dutch side have had many young Chelsea stars visiting in past few years. He had an impressive season, and it earned him another loan to Derby County. Frank Lampard's Derby County. Mason Mount's game had shades of Lampard, so who better to learn from? He had a very good season as Derby came very close to securing promotion. They lost to an Aston Villa side that had Tammy Abraham on loan. But Mason Mount, along with fellow Derby loanee Tomori, Abraham and Wigan loanee James, made the step up. After a disastrous opener against Manchester United, Mason Mount announced himself with a goal against Lteicester at the Bridge. He snuck up on Wilfred Ndidi at the edge of the Leicester box, robbed him of the ball, and fired past Kasper Schmeichel.
Mason Mount is not the most prolific of midfielders, neither is he a flashy star like Jack Grealish. What he brings to the side is his industrious nature and coachability. Mount has a fantastic footballing IQ. He works hard off the ball, pressing and hounding opponents. He never tires, just keeps running, trying to win the ball back for his team. With the ball, he is among the league's top chance creators. Chelsea's finishing woes since last season have robbed him of many assists. He has a beautiful delivery, whether that be from free-kicks or corners. In fact, he scored a fantastic free-kick on the final day of last season against Wolves that secured Champions League qualification.
Integral for Club and Country
Mount is also very perceptive to the manager's tactics. He is very coachable, moulding his game to the manager's tactics. This is something that both Lampard and Southgate, as well as Tuchel, have experienced. He played in a much deeper role under Lampard as part of a midfield three this season. Lampard preferred a 4-3-3, and Mount would often play on either side of a lone holding midfielder. Despite that, his chance creation increased heavily, and his defensive work-rate stood him out as an exceptional midfield option. At times, however, he has played a no.10 and even as a winger!
Gareth Southgate has similarly found Mount to be important for England. Indeed, there is a reason why Southgate would prefer Mount over players like Jack Grealish and James Maddison. The latter two are fine attackers, and on their day, are unplayable. Mount does not provide the same attacking threat, but it is the rest of his game that elevates him. Grealish and Maddison are both unlikely to track back, and they are not as efficient on the ball in defensive positions. So while England might lose a little bit of creativity, they would gain a lot more stability in midfield. Of course, Mount's versatility means he has co-existed with Grealish for England, with the Aston Villa star coming in off the left and the Chelsea star lying deeper.
Chelsea's Player of the Season
Lampard and Southgate were seemingly obsessed with Mount. Even a section of Chelsea fans called him overrated, and a 'teacher's pet'. Lampard's son, and Southgate's son, they said. He got endless abuse from England fans who wanted Grealish to be star of this England side, and from Chelsea fans who just couldn't appreciate him enough. All of that, however, has changed now.
There was a lot of discussion about Mount when Thomas Tuchel came in to replace Lampard. There was the notion that Chelsea's academy stars, would be losing game time. Mount. in particular, was expected to lose his status as one of the club's most important players as the tactical genius of Tuchel would realise he is just average. Well, that has not happened. He was left out of the German's first XI, but even in a 10-minute cameo, he showed what he brings to the side. Since then, Mason Mount has been the first name on the team-sheet when fit and available. He has played as one of the three attackers in Tuchel's 3-4-3 formation. He has featured either side of a central striker, or as a false nine centrally.
Whichever role he has played, he has been fantastic. Is he Tuchel's son too then? Surely, not every manager can have a mysterious father-like connection to Mount, right? Of course not! The simple answer, as already stated earlier, is that he is the manager's dream.
Adaptable, industrious, tireless, he is the heart of this Chelsea side. He is level with Kevin de Bruyne for chances created in the Premier League this season, and he isn't far behind Grealish and Bruno Fernandes. That, despite playing much deeper than all of them for a majority of the season. Since Tuchel's arrival, he has scored four times and has been involved in far more.
Mount has earned his place in the team. He had help from Lampard, but you don't stay at the top if you're not good enough. Four goals he now has for England too.
He has no qualms about the role he is asked to play. Mount puts his head down and executes the tactics. He has added much more to his game now since his debut. His footwork has improved, he is looking forward more, and his finishing has been much better. He also combines well with whoever plays along side him in attack.
Right now, Mount can look forward to semi-final ties in the Champions League and FA Cup, as well as a juicy run-in to the season.
Chelsea and Mount are in form, and they will back themselves to win every game. He is underrated and underappreciated, but there is no doubting just how good a footballer Mason Mount is. The season's not over yet, but he is certainly Chelsea's Player of the Season.
People thought Havertz's arrival will spell doom for Mount, but that never happened. Then it was Tuchel's arrival, and that didn't happen either. It's time everyone realises that he is here to stay. I wouldn't be surprised if one day he becomes both Chelsea's and England's captain!