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Mount is as big for Chelsea as he was for me at Derby County, says Lampard

goal.com, 30 June 2020, 17:29
Mount is as big for Chelsea as he was for me at Derby County, says Lampard
The Blues attacking midfielder has stepped up significantly in level but has remained ever-present for his manager this season

After being hauled off at half-time against Leicester City, Frank Lampard is hoping Mason Mount picks himself up to do battle against his best friend Declan Rice and West Ham United.

Having completed 3,091 minutes this season and after playing the full match in each of the previous games, the 21-year-old wasn't his usual spritely self as Lampard looked to his subs to finish the job in the FA Cup against Leicester City.

The only outfield player to have completed more minutes than Mount for Chelsea this season is captain Cesar Azpilicueta, and the Blues manager admits that he is leaning upon him as much at Stamford Bridge as he did at Derby County, despite hauling him off at the weekend.

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"I rely on Mason a lot. I did at Derby, I do at Chelsea," Lampard told reporters ahead of his side's trip to the London Stadium. "He brings so much to the team in his work ethic and the way he can start the press in midfield and obviously his quality on the ball which is only going to get better and it's already at a high level.

"Mason wouldn't have been happy to come off at half time. I know that from myself and if there's one comparison I can make is that I know if he's not playing, then he won't be happy.

"He should not be happy that evening, but then straight back to it afterwards because he knows how much I trust in him and he works brilliantly every day.

"When I say Mason, I mean Billy [Gilmour] and Reece [James] in the same breath because they show a similar attitude. There will be no problem with Mason because it was a one-off game, I had to make a decision and it doesn't affect my thinking for West Ham or going forwards.

"I think the first two games after the restart, which Mason played 90 minutes in both, at Aston Villa he was incredibly lively with the ball, gave them a lot of problems going forward, probably unfortunate not to score or have an assist.

"The work ethic and quality that he showed against Manchester City was also incredible and the performance we showed as a team was also really good.

"So, he had two big performances in a week and then in the Leicester game; Mason didn't really have a bad performance, it was a performance in line with the team and my choices to change were about the players that I could bring into that performance rather than the players who were on the pitch, because I could have made a lot of changes in that game.

"It was more about whether I could bring some energy into the team."

On Wednesday night, Lampard's side will look to avoid a second defeat of the season to West Ham, who are desperately battling against relegation.

The match will see London rivals face off but also best friends as Mount and Rice compete. The pair broke the UK lockdown rules in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic to play five-a-side football together.

Ever the professionals, the news seemed uncharacteristic and Lampard moved to remind Mount of his responsibilities and offered his view on the pair's friendship.

"I had the shortest word possible," he added about Mount's misconduct. "Mason was very innocently, and, as you say, naively wrong at the time and he very quickly held his hands up to that.

"But he was kicking a ball about and that's so typical of Mason and how he lives his life. So I had the shortest ever conversation with Mason. He was pretty apologetic and said he got it wrong straight away and we moved on.

"In that sort of circumstance [of Rice and Mount's friendship ahead of kick-off] but you can also become overly focused on that relationship and have a not so good game. They are two very good players.

"But there is only one thing I will ask of Mason - and from my point of view that is obviously all I care about going into this one. He texts him tonight, he smiles at him in the tunnel or whatever it is, but if and when they go up against each other he has try to beat him in every individual battle that he possibly can.

"Sensing Rice's character, I am sensing they will both be like-minded on that one. We will see."

Indeed, Chelsea have been credited with an interest in Rice on and off for the last year, but Lampard has brushed off the speculation.

West Ham boss David Moyes is keen to see his ex-Chelsea academy star stick around for a while longer. However, having managed at Manchester United in the recent past, he is aware that the young England international has some improving to do to get to the top level.

"If you think of the great players that have been at West Ham over the last 125 years, some stunning players," Moyes said ahead of the match. "Declan Rice is not anywhere close to that level yet, he has got a lot of improvement to do to meet that level but he is a very, very good player.

"I have had the chance to see a lot of players at the top level, their qualities, Declan has many, many of them. My idea is to build West Ham around Declan Rice. I see Declan Rice as a future captain of West Ham for many reasons.

"I am looking forward to working with Declan and unless I am told different or things change he is a very big part of the club to me."

Chelsea's form since the return to action following the relaxing of Covid-19 restrictions from the UK Government has seen them continue a spell of good form. Three wins from three sees them in the FA Cup semi-final and firmly in the top four places in the Premier League.

Lampard has managed his squad well, using the five substitutions available and heavy rotation leaving Moyes under no illusions about the level of challenge for his Hammers side during the midweek clash.

"They have so many different attacking options," he added. "First of all you wouldn't know what players are going to play, but I think the style is they get a lot of players forward. They're good at it.

"They also have one or two world-class holding midfielders who give them the balance to allow them to attack from that position. They're a good side. They're an energetic side, which everybody has seen this season."

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