There is more to Mason Mount’s game than goals from midfield. The Chelsea midfielder brings assists, moves intelligently and is a relentless presser off the ball. Frank Lampard loves his attitude and always tries to find room for him in the team. Yet when Mount is asked to rate his first Premier League season out of 10, his mind is drawn to one area.
The question has put Mount on the spot. It is an awkward one to answer for someone uncomfortable bigging himself up, but there is no way out. “It’s difficult,” he says, speaking on Zoom from his home. “But because I have got seven goals I will give myself seven out of 10. I’m a big self-critic and I know there is room for improvement.”
A point for each goal seems a reasonable compromise, though it is tempting to raise Mount’s rating because of his ability to turn up on the big occasion. The 21-year-old’s seventh goal was crucial, a stunning free-kick to break the deadlock as Chelsea secured Champions League qualification with a 2-0 win over Wolves last weekend, and he came up with his fifth assist moments later, teeing up Olivier Giroud. Seven out of 10 feels low, especially as Mount has eight goals in all competitions after scoring when Chelsea reached Saturday’s FA Cup final against Arsenal by beating Manchester United last month.
“It’s gone well,” Mount says. “I always speak to my dad before a season starts and we set goals and one of those was 10 goals. Dad’s very hard on me and is my biggest critic, so 10 is always going to be the target. He has said that my whole life. If you are averaging 10 goals as a midfielder you are having a good season.”
There is a shirt from Chelsea’s title-winning 2004-05 campaign framed on the wall behind Mount. He won it in a raffle and it is signed by Lampard, who always knew how to time a run from midfield. Lampard, one of Chelsea’s greatest-ever players, has been a huge influence on Mount. He took him on loan to Derby County last season and has played him 51 times this campaign.
The connection between Lampard and Mount is strong. Yet suggestions that Lampard favours one of the finest players to emerge from the academy do not quite stack up. After all he hooked Mount at half-time when Chelsea beat Leicester in the last eight of the FA Cup.
“I had a chat with the gaffer and learned something,” Mount says. “That’s what development is about. I’m going to learn from every obstacle. He obviously made the right decision and changed a few positions.
“He is massive on the competition side of things, especially in training. A lot of the focus is on training. If you train really well you will start. One minute he can put his arm around you and tell you you have been doing well. Then if he doesn’t think you have he will take you off and you will know about it. He has definitely got that side to him.”
It is not a surprise Mount bounced back against United. His father, Tony, keeps him grounded and there is no hint of ego as the England international opens up before his first Cup final. Mount, a boyhood Portsmouth fan, is living the dream. He is focused on delivering Chelsea’s first trophy under Lampard and smiles as he remembers going to Wembley when Portsmouth beat Cardiff to win the Cup in 2008.
“I went to the semi-final as well so I got to go to Wembley twice,” Mount says. “I remember travelling up from Portsmouth with my dad. A lot of the city had gone up. When they scored I was straight up on the seat, with my dad holding me up, watching the celebrations. I was a big fan of Sulley Muntari, Niko Kranjcar, Crouchy [Peter Crouch].”
The coronavirus pandemic means Mount’s family cannot be at Wembley. They are having a “blue party” at home instead – “All in Chelsea kits, with flags and everything” – and will cheer on Mount from afar.
It will still be a special moment for Mount, who joined Chelsea at the age of six. He was one of the biggest talents in the academy, winning plenty of trophies and individual awards, and benefited from loans with Vitesse Arnhem and Derby. “It was always my goal to come back after two seasons out on loan,” he says. “Before this season I had no expectations of how many games I was going to play. If you said I would play 50-plus games I would be so surprised.”
Lampard’s appointment last summer transformed the vibe for the youngsters. Chelsea had a transfer embargo and Lampard turned to the kids, with Mount joined in the team by Tammy Abraham, Billy Gilmour, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori.
The pathway is open, though Lampard cannot take all the credit. Mount will also feel nothing but warmth when he sees David Luiz, who left Chelsea for Arsenal last summer, at Wembley. “He was always brilliant with the younger boys,” Mount says. “I’ve got a picture with him when I was probably about 13. He would come over and watch us play. I always looked up to him.
“This season when I came back in pre-season I was speaking to him. He has so much experience. I learned so much. I get on very well with David. We speak now and again. I can’t remember the last time he messaged me but I think it was after a win or I scored and he said: ‘Well done, keep it going.’ But I’m looking forward to facing him.”
Mount, who also has pictures with Ashley Cole and John Terry, wants to help the next generation. “You get a bit starstruck,” he says. “I know how it feels for a first-team player to come over. It feels like I’m still a part of the academy, even though this is my first season playing in the first team. I will always go back to the building and see the coaches I’ve worked under. I’ve done that a couple of times.”
This season a video emerged of Mount training as a boy, explaining how he models his free-kick technique on Cristiano Ronaldo. “Hit the ball by the valve and it moves,” he says in the clip. “That’s what you do. Top corner. Top bins.” Then he runs off to bend a swerving shot into the right corner of the goal with his right foot; an eerie replica of his strike against Wolves.
“I actually saw it earlier on in the season,” Mount says. “The coach that videoed it sent it to me. It was weird how similar it looked. When you put them side by side … it was a special moment. That’s just me as a boy, just enjoying myself. After training, we had free-kick practice. There’s a video of Tammy taking one. I don’t think anyone’s seen it but I’ve got it as well.
“We were talking about the Ronaldo technique. A free-kick is a very tough technique and it’s something I’ve always worked on. Watching David Beckham and Ronaldo scoring all these free-kicks, I was in awe. I’ve worked on it for a very long time. It doesn’t always come off. It’s a very difficult technique, but when they do it feels brilliant.”
Practice makes perfect. Mount’s dad loved his goal against Wolves and it might even be possible to raise that mark out of 10 if another free-kick helps Chelsea beat Arsenal. “It’s not over yet,” Mount says. “It can definitely finish with some silverware and that will take it up a bit.”