Mason Mount is dragging Chelsea out of their slump and relieving pressure on Frank Lampard

On a night when Frank Lampard really needed a result, it spoke volumes that he didn’t hesitate to turn to Mason Mount.

Following a torrid run of just one win in six Premier League games, Chelsea perhaps could have done without a west London derby against an improving Fulham side.

They proved every bit as stubborn as everyone expected, even with 10 men, but Lampard’s complete faith in 22-year-old match-winner Mount turned out to be entirely justified.

Mason Mount celebrates after scoring Chelsea's winning goal at Fulham on Saturday night

Mason Mount celebrates after scoring Chelsea’s winning goal at Fulham on Saturday night

The Chelsea midfielder was in the right place to score and settle the tight west London derby

The Chelsea midfielder was in the right place to score and settle the tight west London derby 

Under-pressure managers look for leaders in such times of need, players who will give everything they have for the shirt. Here, Mount was every bit as important as Antonio Rudiger or Cesar Azpilicueta or Olivier Giroud.

More influential, too, than any of Chelsea’s expensive signings. It was Mount who settled the game and created an impressive seven chances, not £58million Christian Pulisic or £33m Hakim Ziyech.

Not even £53m striker Timo Werner, who eventually came on for Giroud, nor £71m Kai Havertz, who remained on the bench.

Chelsea may have spent the thick end of £250m on new signings last summer, but it’s Mount – the academy graduate – who is outperforming everyone right now and dragging Lampard and his team through the storm.

The England international’s drive, assurance, creativity and versatility are truly impressive.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard speaks with Mount on the training ground on Monday

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard speaks with Mount on the training ground on Monday

Lampard has challenged Mount to come up with more goals like the one at Craven Cottage

Lampard has challenged Mount to come up with more goals like the one at Craven Cottage

His performance at Craven Cottage showed a willingness and ability to drag Chelsea out of the doldrums to three points. So we can add leadership to the list as well.

Will the boy who first signed for the club aged six captain Chelsea one day? There’s every chance. It could be sooner than you think.

Such has been Mount’s form of late he has made himself undroppable to Lampard. The last time he didn’t start a Premier League game was at Old Trafford on October 24.

Lampard even played him against Morecambe in the third round of the FA Cup when the sensible thing would have been to give him the weekend off after a demanding Christmas period.

Mount finds the net during Chelsea's FA Cup win over Morecambe earlier this month

Mount finds the net during Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Morecambe earlier this month 

Mount shields the ball from Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo during Saturday's game at Fulham

Mount shields the ball from Fulham’s Tosin Adarabioyo during Saturday’s game at Fulham 

But it’s clear there’s a bond of trust between manager and player. And when someone is playing so well, why risk interrupting that form even if the opponents are from League Two?

Which makes it all the more ridiculous that Mount has had to deal with Twitter trolls all season.

There are those who feel Mount is too much of a ‘pet project’ for Lampard, maybe because they’re both English, or because Mount shares so many attributes to Lampard when he played.

Then there’s the Aston Villa fans who chided England boss Gareth Southgate for picking Mount over Jack Grealish earlier in the season even though it was obvious they could both be accommodated in the team.

But the ‘teacher’s pet’ jibes haven’t thrown Mount off his stride this season, even if Lampard is probably at the end of his tether answering questions about them.

Mount's form has made his integral to Gareth Southgate's England plans for Euro 2020

Mount’s form has made his integral to Gareth Southgate’s England plans for Euro 2020

‘He does so much work off the ball. He does all the basics, moves the ball quickly, scores goals, finds assists, he does all those things,’ Lampard said ahead of Chelsea’s visit to Leicester on Tuesday.

‘One thing he has got is a great attitude. A great way of seeming like he is never concerned about the outside.

‘The critics are wrong. He’s just turned 22, imagine what is like at 25 or 27.’

Certainly if Mount continues to show gradual improvement season-on-season, that is one hell of a prospect.

Mount’s chance creation stats have soared this season compared to his 2019-20 breakthrough at Stamford Bridge, likewise the number of touches, dribbles and passes into the box.

It points to a player increasingly comfortable in demanding the ball and increasingly adept at doing something telling with it.

How Mount's performances in Premier League games compare during his time with Chelsea

How Mount’s performances in Premier League games compare during his time with Chelsea

Mason Mount touch map during Chelsea's 3-1 win over Leeds United in December

Mount's touch map for Saturday's win at Fulham

Mount’s versatility can be shown by his touch maps in two games in which he created seven chances for Chelsea. On the left, he is stationed on the left of midfield during December’s 3-1 home win over Leeds. On the right, he is on the right during Saturday’s win over Fulham

He created seven chances at Fulham on Saturday in addition to his goal, repeating his return from Chelsea’s 3-1 home win over Leeds United in early December.

But Mount was actually deployed in totally different parts of midfield in each of the games. Against Leeds, he was stationed on the left of a midfield three, while against Fulham he was on the right, popping up in all areas.

No 22-year-old player is the finished article, however, and one measure that declined from last season is Mount’s goals and expected goals counts.

Lampard used the occasion of Mount’s winner at Fulham to push him to score more often, while using the caveat that his own journey to becoming Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer didn’t really begin until his third season there, when he was 25.

‘He can get more goals from midfield,’ Lampard said. ‘It’s a conversation I have a lot with Mason.

Lampard has challenged Mount to add more goals to his game, aiming for 15 a season

Lampard has challenged Mount to add more goals to his game, aiming for 15 a season 

‘By the time he’s 23, 24, and maturing into the prime of his career I’d like to think that he will be a player at the highest level in all senses, and that he has at least 10 goals, maybe 15, per season in him.’

Much of it will be down to honing that instinct to be in the right place at the right time, as he was to get Chelsea three points on Saturday.

But the signs are that Mount possesses one quality that can’t really be measured. An ability to pull this Chelsea team up by the bootstraps when they’re underperforming or not getting the breaks they need.

At the moment it’s Mount, above all their other players, who looks most likely to inspire them to a decent finish to an often difficult season.

Sports