How ‘full package’ Mason Mount became first name on Chelsea’s team sheet

It was on 69 minutes, with Chelsea 2-0 up against Fulham, a scoreline they held right through to full time, that the hosts had their first moment of alarm.

Even in the absence of fans, Stamford Bridge is one of the noisier behind-closed-door grounds and it’s gone up a decibel since Thomas Tuchel has taken over. Of the managers own the Premier League, the German might be one of the more animated. Even when things are going well, as they have been for most of his 23 games in charge, he still bellows out all kinds of encouragement and tactical directions from the sidelines.

But as Mason Mount came crashing to the ground on 69 minutes, landing on his coccyx after an aerial duel with Fulham midfielder Mario Lemina, a deathly silence came over west London. Within two minutes, Mount was back to his feet to a smattering of applause from those decked out in blue. A few minutes later, he was taken off and allowed to rest his 22-year-old bones.

Tuchel confirmed after the win that Mount’s withdrawal was purely his call, taken without consulting any of the Chelsea medical staff. The manner of the fall was enough to have the manager wincing and fearful of any further unnecessary damage to one of his most trusted and consistent performers ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second-leg against Real Madrid.

Plus, the game was already secured by Mount. His classy yet dogged display in a midfield where Fulham were their most competitive, pushed his side safety into the top four. The assist for Kai Havertz’s first goal, plucking a raking ball out of thin air before executing a perfectly weighted pass, was the standout contribution in an all-round performance. When he wasn’t pressing high, he was getting stuck in – only Reece James and Lemina made more than his four tackles – and filled in out left to allow Havertz to drift without caution.

That he was even starting in this match tells a very different story to the one that emanated from February when he was benched for Tuchel’s first game in charge against Wolves. The fear then was that, after one training session, the new manager did not appreciate his talents.

But when the team sheet came in on Saturday and five changes had been made to the XI that started the 1-1 first-leg draw against Real Madrid, that Mount was not one of them told a more accurate tale. Into the business end of the season where every game matters, there are very few players Tuchel trusts more.

“He has the full package, mentally, in terms of talent and physically,” beamed Tuchel after the match. “And the most important part is his character, he has his feet on the ground and he’s a nice guy.

“He comes to Cobham every day to learn something new and have new experiences. He is the guy who can recover very fast, he’s a very physical player and is fully adapted to Premier League football. He has big self-confidence in a very, very positive way. It’s a pleasure to have him, be at his side and guide him and support him.”

Since that Wolves game, Mount has started 18 games for Chelsea in all competitions, including all of their knock-out ties in the Champions League he was available for – he missed the second leg of the Atletico Madrid last of 16 encounter through suspension – and the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City. During this time, no other Chelsea player has been involved in more goals than Mount, who now boasts two assists alongside his five goals. That form has correlated with Chelsea’s surge from eighth to within two points of third-place Leicester City, along with an FA Cup final and possibly Champions League final to come.

More broadly, Mount’s now finds himself in the top bracket of creators this season. It was his 11th big chance created, the sixth most in the league behind Bruno Fernandes, Kevin De Bruyne, Harry Kane, Jack Grealish and Son-Heung-min.

It’s worth noting all of those are standout attacking totems of their respective sides. And perhaps Mount slinks under the radar as that type of player because he’s so noticeable elsewhere. Remarkably, N’Golo Kante is the only Chelsea player to have made more than his 73 tackles in the league, but only by three. All while Mount excels head and shoulders above his teammates with 40 chances put on in open play. Timo Werner, who became the first Chelsea player since Eden Hazard in 2012/13 to register double figures for goals and assists in all competitions when he set-up Havertz’s second, is the next highest in the league with 29.

Don’t worry, this isn’t another “put some respect on Mount’s name” article, because if you don’t already then your issues are with the man rather than the work. This is merely another nod to a talent quietly rallying against the whims of the modern game at the highest level.

In an age where footballer’s roles are so strictly defined on the pitch, mapped out to the smallest detail, right down to where they are standing at any one moment, the Roy of the Rovers type all-action Englishman is a thing of the past. Yet here is Mount, understated yet overtly relied upon to fulfill many duties within one of Europe’s most finely-tuned and highly successful systems right now. One that morphs from rigid to fluid and back again due to Mount’s unrivaled fluidity.

Tuchel believes Mount will be “absolutely fine” for Wednesday. The nature of his discomfort familiar to anyone who has had a chair yanked out from behind them.

Barring any untimely hitch in training at the start of the week, you can more or less write him into the XI for Real Madrid. Like Tuchel, you can probably put his name down first.

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