Scouting Mason Mount: The Chelsea Loanee Trying to Buck the System
Chances are that over the years, you’ve heard of the great debate that surrounds Chelsea and the volume of players they have on loan, even more so when the player in question has come from their famous academy. Pundits left and right talk about the ethics of having so many players on loan at other clubs, and how almost none of them ever make it back to the parent club and ply their trade. The idea of the whole thing makes sense in terms of a calculated way to constantly generate funds, even though the optics of a big club like Chelsea hoarding such a high volume of youngsters aren’t exactly great, and there will be times where a previous loanee comes back to bite the club in the ass (see: Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah).
Chelsea do stand to benefit in some way with other academy talents like Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek showcasing their talent elsewhere, and what’s happened to Andreas Christensen could be a sign that a new era is arriving at Chelsea. With the not so subtle hints that the club is transitioning from the free spending days into something more closer to a self sustaining model, perhaps more players out on loan can forge a career back at Stamford Bridge, when that looked considerably harder to do as recently as 2–3 years ago.
One of those players trying to do such a thing is Mason Mount, a 19 year old who’s among a generation of young English players that are bucking the stereotype of what used to define being an English footballer, expanding their horizons in the hopes of a greater footballing education. It’s not as if he lacks in confidence, and for a 19 year old in his first season in the Eredivisie, he’s produced intriguing output that could suggest that his confidence isn’t unfounded.
Even with the possibility of Chelsea tapping more into their prodigious youth ranks for talent, the bar to getting into the first team on a consistent basis remains quite high, and it’s fair to wonder whether Mason Mount is good enough that he’ll secure a long term future in London. How good of a prospect is he? Let’s look at the tape and find out.
In terms of his coordination on the ball, Mason Mount profiles quite well for a 19 year old. In situations where the ball is loose, he’s got the ability to grab possession of it and attempt to turn it into semi-transition opportunities. He’s got quite impressive close control that allows him to drift pass defenders. More times than not, he doesn’t misplay his first touch when receiving the ball, and that allows him to go into his next action (pass/dribble/shot) in tighter areas.
I don’t think Mount is fast on the ball, which could hinder him in the future. His ability to create separation from his opponent after completing a dribble is not the greatest, and he doesn’t have elite top end speed even when he’s running with the ball in open space. He is mobile enough to make off-ball runs and that should be able to translate in a tougher league, and given his impressive coordination and touch on the ball, he would be classified as a decent athlete but not an elite one.
One of the things that I found interesting about Mason Mount when doing research was that at youth levels, he profiled as a dual threat with both his feet. It’s a rare trait to have as a CM to be capable of shooting from both feet. It’s one of the reasons why someone like Kevin De Bruyne has taken the leap this season into the elite tier. If we use De Bruyne as a reference, who’s currently taken 19/73 of shots with his left foot, Mount has a greater percentage of shots taken with his left foot (8/25). This isn’t to say that Mount has the same shooting capabilities of De Bruyne or is even in the same league, but I do find it interesting that his confidence to shoot with his left foot has somewhat translated against better competition.
In general, I find Mount to be a little bit like Frank Lampard in regards to his shooting opportunities in open play. He’ll make his runs from the midfield area and arrive at the box as a trailer. Having 60% of his shots come from inside the box looks to be a good sign so far of shot discipline, albeit he’s not going to continue converting 21.4% of his shots into goals.
For a free roaming #8 that doesn’t contribute too much on the defensive side (not that this is necessarily a problem in a 3-man midfield), the onus is higher for said player to be a dual threat in terms of both shooting and passing. We’ve already covered the shooting aspect, and Mount’s passing does show some promise, especially during set pieces. He’s created a number of opportunities from corner kicks and he can also create chances for his teammates in wide areas during dead-ball situations.
His playmaking ability in open play isn’t too shabby either. He’s a high volume crosser for a CM, and he’s flashed the ability to hit his target with either lofted passes or driven ones. He does a number of headed layoffs and headed passes during non-structured scenarios where neither team has full possession of the ball. His ability to hit high danger passes in open play is hit or miss at this point, but there’s something to be said that he’s not afraid to try these kind of passes even though the success rate isn’t anything outstanding.
The biggest thing with Mason Mount during his years in the Chelsea system was his ability to bob and weave past his opponents with his dribbling, so it’s a bit curious that he’s only completed 1.6 dribbles per 90 minutes, which is a fine number for a midfielder but not necessarily a mouthwatering mark. That being said, there are moments where you clearly see the high level of coordination that many have touted him to possess.
There are a few things to like about Mount’s game. We’re talking about a potential two-footed shooter with considerable playmaking equity and an understanding of how to maneuver off-ball. Would it be nice if he had 10–20% more athleticism in his locker? Sure, and again I do have my concerns about his athleticism, but almost every prospect you’re dealing with has flaws to his game so there’s only so much you can complain about.
On the one hand, it’s clear that Mason Mount has a diverse skillset. He’s smart enough to time his runs and lurk into the penalty area so he can be free for shooting opportunities. I also think that he’s quite clever in terms of finding space between the defensive lines to present himself as an option for a pass. His passing is good but perhaps not great, and it’s clear that he’s got high level coordination + touch on the ball. It would be reckless to suggest that he is the next Frank Lampard, but you can’t deny that his playing style does lead towards that kind of comparison.
On the other hand, I just can’t shake off the feeling that he might not be a good enough athlete to accentuate his gifts, which might be a bit harsh considering that we’re dealing with a 19 year old who’s still trying to shape and mold his body. Besides the fact that he’s still on the slender side of things, He just doesn’t have that burst to his running that would make it easier on him. I wouldn’t be mistaken in the slightest for being a sport scientist nor do I pretend to play one, so perhaps there could be incremental jumps in quickness and acceleration over the next couple of years as he matures. A future version of Mason Mount with slightly better top end speed could very well be someone that alleviates the athleticism concerns and become a bonafide star midfielder.
It would be hard to deny that Mason Mount is a talented 19 year old, and probably someone who should find a good niche in a top 5 league in the near future. The fact that he’s producing 0.61 Non Penalty Goals + Assists as a #8 is quite impressive, even with unsustainable conversion rate he’s currently on. He has good coordination on the ball and a good sense of being able to get in positions for shooting opportunities, to go along with his capable playmaking abilities whether during set pieces or in open play. It’s fair to wonder whether he’s a good enough athlete for the Premier League, and it’s clear that to get the best out of him, he has to play as a free roaming #8 with little duties defensively and it’s not quite clear if he’s good enough offensively to allow such a trade-off.
There’ll probably be calls from Chelsea fans that he should be on the squad next season with his current success, but I actually think it would be doing him a disservice. In my opinion, and it is just one man’s opinion, Mason Mount is at least a couple years away from being good enough to be on Chelsea’s squad on a consistent basis. It would be much better for his development to make a jump into a top 5 European league and hone his craft until at least 2020 before potentially coming back to England. And it could very well be that he’s just not good enough for the first team squad, because again, you have to be really good to consistently start at Chelsea as a youth product.
The question now becomes where should he go next after his stint at Vitesse ends. On the one hand, if Chelsea really do have an eye on him making the first team in the future, maybe it’s best for him to go to the Bundesliga and get used to playing in a high octane league with opposition markers constantly trying to eliminate space. On the other hand, his style of play would probably fit best in a slower paced league like Ligue 1 or Serie A. It’s a tough decision, one that I certainly don’t have the answers to.
Is Mason Mount a talented prospect? I would say that he is. Despite the potential athleticism concerns, there’s enough in his repertoire to at least be cautiously excited. Is Mason Mount one of the best Under-20 talents in Europe? That’s tougher to say. I’m not sure that he pops in the same way that someone like Houssem Aouar does, another 19 year old midfielder who possesses greater coordination on-ball + more positional versatility. I’m hesitant to say that he’s going to be a superstar or anything of that sort, but there’s the rough outlines of an intriguing player and considering Chelsea’s move towards austerity, maybe there lies a road map for Mason Mount to realize his dream of playing for Chelsea F.C.