The response has almost become cliche, although that is hardly the fault of any young Chelsea player. They know the challenge but they also know the reality. It’s better not to pretend otherwise.
“Playing for Chelsea, that’s the main goal,” Blues youngster Mason Mount said earlier this month. It’s an sincere ambition yet one that came with an understandable caveat. “I want to play as high up as I can,” he added.
Mount is a member of Chelsea’s loan army and is spending this season on loan at unofficial Chelsea feeder club Vitesse Arnhem. He’s performing well and was named the Eredivisie Talent of the Month for January, although that is just the latest in a long list of accolades the 19-year-old has collected in his short career.
Last summer Mount was part of the England Under-19 squad that clinched the European Championships. He played a big role in the Young Lions’ success and was named Golden Player of the Championships in addition to being included in the Team of the Tournament.
Those accolades came just two months after being crowned Chelsea Academy Player of the Year for 2017. He was also captain as the Blues Under-18s retained the FA Youth Cup.
Such success at a young age impacts players differently. Some relax and bask in the glory of their achievements. Others want new, harder challenges. Mount falls into the latter category.
This season he could’ve stayed at Chelsea and played regularly for the club’s Under-23s. Instead when presented with a chance to join Vitesse, he didn’t hesitate.
“I was quite young to come on loan to another country, but this has definitely been a massive experience for me. I have learnt so much. This is men’s football, you learn something every day.”
Because of representing England at the Under-19 Euros, Mount joined up with Vitesse late. Pre-season was already well underway, hardly the ideal situation for an 18-year-old to step into.
However, Mount accepted it would take time for him to win over the trust of coach Henk Fraser. Early in the season there were sporadic starts in cup competitions and he was used predominantly from the substitutes’ bench in the Eredivisie. It would’ve been easy to become frustrated.
Instead, when presented with a chance to shine Mount took it in style. On November 23 he was handed a place in the starting XI against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in the Europa League.
Mount could’ve been overawed – it was only his fifth start in men’s football – but he demonstrated the same maturity that defines his game. He produced an excellent performance, one that rewrote Europa League record books.
During the 1-1 draw, a result which Vitesse were disappointed with, Mount created eight chances for his team-mates from midfield. It was the most achieved by a teenager in a single Europa League game ever.
“It was a game where I just tried to express myself and show on the big stage what I can produce,” he told The Sun. “We actually drew the game and if we took more chances we could have won it.
“Playing against a top, top team like that was just an unbelievable experience moving forward.”
Tellingly, Mount has since started game every for Vitesse. And with every passing week he grows in confidence. It’s why in in the club’s last eight league games, the Chelsea loanee has been involved in six goals.
There have been two assists but he has found the back of the net on four occasions, often in stylish and decisive fashion.
There was an excellently guided left-footed winner in a victory against Sparta Rotterdam. A swept right-footed goal in a 2-0 success against Groningen. And the standout, a brilliantly struck free-kick from out wide to secure three points against Zwolle.
And of the Vitesse players to have played more than 1,000 minutes in the Eredivisie this season, none have played more key passes per 90 than Mount’s 1.8.
Yes, he has to be involved in the build-up more. Mount has averaged just 20.7 passes per 90 in the Eredivisie, but that should come with more experience and confidence. He should be demanding the ball when he is not getting it.
The big question, however, is whether Mount is ready to star for Chelsea. And the honest answer is no. There is a big step up from the Eredivisie to the Premier League, one many a player Mount’s senior have struggled with.
But there is no doubting the midfielder’s potential and he certainly has the technique, intelligence and level-headedness required to be a part of the Blues’ first-team squad.
Andreas Christensen has this season given every member of Chelsea’s loan army hope. If he can do it, so can they. All that is needed is the opportunity.
Perhaps that comes for Mount next season. Or maybe after a season-long loan spell in the Premier League. That is for Chelsea to decide. What the Blues can’t do, however, is stunt his development.
Mount is one of the brightest prospects the Blues have. He has to be handled with care.