Why does Mason Mount attract so much cynicism? John Nicholson is waiting for the Chelsea and England playmaker’s critics to feast on humble pie.
Here’s What’s So Great About the Blues’ no.19…
Who’s this then?
Mason Tony Mount is a 23-year-old, 5ft 11in Portsmouth-born Chelsea and England midfielder. Despite his young age he has already racked up 267 club appearances, including over 50 in each of the last three seasons. Sometimes a divisive figure, there are those who just don’t get onboard the MM train, but there are others who see one of the best, most creative midfielders of his generation. He will almost certainly be picked for the England squad by Gareth Southgate and will likely start in their opening game against Iran.
His father was a non-league player and Mason showed early promise and he joined Chelsea at the age of just six, which does seem ridiculously young to be allied to any club. However, by the time he was in his teens, he was playing in the under age sides and doing well being part of the 2016-17 Under-18 Premier League winning team. He also won two FA Youth Cups, the UEFA Youth League, and was voted Chelsea Academy Player of the Year 2017.
When he was promoted to the first team aged 18, he was immediately loaned out to Dutch side Vitesse for a season along with another Chelsea kid Fankaty Dabo (who now plays for Coventry). It was a successful and developmental campaign. He played in 39 games and scored 14 times and was voted Vitesse’s Player Of The Year.
Returning to England for 2018-19, Frank Lampard took him on loan to Derby. Again, Mason impressed, turning out 44 times and scoring 11, despite having two months off with twanged hammy.
Lampard promptly fell ass backwards into the Chelsea job, just as MM was returning to base and thus gave him a new five-year contract and a chance in the first team.
Since that time he has played 178 games for the club scoring times and has become axiomatic to how Chelsea play, with Thomas Tuchel citing him as one of their most important players and one of the best in Europe. He won the Champions League with the Blues, which was rather nice, as was being voted Chelsea Player of the Year 2020-21 and again in 2021-22.
So while everything was coming up Mason at club level, he got his first full cap for England in 2019. He had played in all the under-age teams, had won the Under-19 Euros and was named ‘Golden Player’ of the tournament. He does win a lot of awards.
He was also part of the team that lost to Italy in the Euro 2020 final and currently has 32 caps and five goals for his country. Not bad for a youngster.
Why the love?
Quite how or why Mason Mount has become a player who divides opinion is a bit of a mystery. I mean, he’s a very, very good footballer. Look at all the personal honours he’s won since an early age, those haven’t happened because he’s just lucky or is the teacher’s pet. When he had a slight dip in form at the start of this season, it seemed to give critics a chance to jump on him again. It was though they had been waiting for an opportunity to attack him again, the way that had become commonplace in 2020.
But MM is only 23. As Sarah pointed out, he is often treated as a senior player despite his young age and should be allowed a dip in form as much as anyone, though arguably, his was down to the position Tuchel had asked him to play, more than to any innate lack of form.
Perhaps familiarity does breed contempt, and given there is much more money to be made out of contempt in modern media than there is out of familiarity, perhaps that explains why the few naysayers have been amplified.
I also wonder if some don’t like him because he seems such a nice boy, is articulate and doesn’t seem to be forever in search of the lowest cultural common denominator. There can be no greater crime in some quarters than not being ‘a big character’.
But on the pitch he is the complete progressive midfielder, as capable of goalscoring as he is of assisting a goalscorer. His 11 goals and 10 assists last season and six assists and two goals this season, illustrate that. Add in the fact that he can put a free-kick in the top corner and is frequently the middle third player who connects the back play to progressive front play, and it’s easy to see why he is rated so highly for club and country.
And yet there is still some cynicism about him. People do feel he is overrated and his presence, especially in the England team, is just blocking a more talented player. Perhaps because he has risen from youth to international level so smoothly, because he has been so feted from such a young age, that he seems part of some sort of privileged elite who has had an easy ride and never had to fight for anything in his life.
The stats do not back this up. A running total of 24 Assists and 26 goals in the Premier League are surely proof that he isn’t some sort of brown-noser who has greased his way to the top. But many of these views of Mount were formed in 2020 and as we know from Brexit, people hate to admit they were stupid and wrong, and get ever more defensive when the evidence of how stupid and wrong they were is pointed out to them.
However, this weird snobbery apart, it is surely important that Graham Potter has kept him in the side for all the games he’s been in charge, despite deploying half a dozen different tactical formations. He obviously sees the player’s combination of excellent close control and passing, ability to find space, and skilful finishing as indispensable.
Three great moments
Ten great goals…
A typically crisp finish…
Graham Potter knows…
With his £4.6million-per-year contract up for renewal in 2024, the club is currently in talks with him to agree an extension and, doubtless, even more money. With Potter singing his praises recently and saying how important he is to the club and the team, it seems only a matter of time before it all gets sorted out. There is no hint he wants to move anywhere else and it is clear just how crucial he is to the club, despite still only being 23. Likewise for England, it isn’t hard to see him being captain of the team at some point. Southgate is clearly a fan of what he brings to the side.
A lifelong friend of Declan Rice, a player that Lampard had wanted to sign for Chelsea, it would make a lot of sense for Todd Boehly to bring Rice into the club this summer. As West Ham’s best player by a country mile, he will never win anything at the club and a hefty bid from Todd should free him from being shouted at by David Moyes. A Rice/Mount midfield would be a top class set-up for Chelsea and for England.
I hope the anti-Mount cohort will have the courage and self-awareness to back off and admit that England has produced an absolutely superb player, who doesn’t just have one standout asset but a whole skill set of talents that make him indispensable for club and for country. And that’s a very good thing indeed.
Read more: Familiarity has bred contempt with Mason Mount but demanding Reece James parity is fair
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