It was his best moment in a Chelsea shirt so far according to Mason Mount when describing Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Spurs and our young midfielder certainly played his part in a memorable win on our first visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Mount was deployed as one of Frank Lampard’s inside forwards in a 3-4-3 system that suffocated Spurs and helped us completely control the London derby. After a run of games that have seen us take just three points from a possible 15 in the Premier League, the victory was particularly significant against a fellow top-four contender and was made all the sweeter coming against our big rivals, as the 20-year-old testified.
‘This game has been my best moment so far,’ he claimed after the win. ‘Obviously scoring on my home debut was up there but we knew how important this was and it was a massive win for our team, the manager, all the backroom staff and the whole club.
‘We wanted to give the fans an early Christmas present and keep working because you always want to be looking up rather than falling back and worrying about what’s happening below you. We just had to stay focused.
‘After four defeats in five games, people are going to ask questions. The younger players are going to get asked questions, the gaffer is going to get asked questions. It was going to start happening but we knew this game could be the turning point.
'We knew our performances in the last few games weren’t good enough so this was the perfect game to show our mentality, our fight and desire, our belief that we could come and win this game.’
The change in shape paid dividends as Jose Mourinho’s side were first surprised and then unable to respond to our flexibility. The groundwork was established in pre-season when Lampard utilised different formations with his new squad, and 3-4-3 was also deployed in away victories at Wolves and Lille earlier in the season.
While Mount was not one of the four players to have been used in the system during our 2016/17 Premier League title-winning campaign, the youngster is still familiar with it from his time in our Academy and he admitted that plenty of work had been done on the training pitch in the week leading into the game to prepare.
‘It clicked together well,’ he said. ‘We’ve been working on it a little bit so we all knew where to be, the positions and movements off the ball that we needed to make. That’s big with a change in formation – everyone needs to know where they’re going, how to press, how to work off the ball because we were playing against a team who are good on the ball.
‘I was a bit higher and on the right, whereas normally I’m on the left but me and Willian played as high number 10s that can get out on to the wings as well. We obviously then had Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso getting higher as well and it really worked for us. It was not a massive change but it really helped us in how we wanted to play this game.’
There was pure elation and joyful scenes amongst the visiting players and staff at full-time, with Lampard having stressed to the group the significance of such derby matches. As a player growing up wearing blue against capital rivals, Mount was well aware of how much it meant.
‘I’ve known what it’s all about from a young age,’ he stated. ‘Going away to Spurs’ training ground at seven or eight years old, it was always a massive game so all of us young boys and the experienced guys as well knew that it was the same today. We knew we had to get the three points to stay in the top four and we came here with confidence to show what we can do.
‘Derbies are about fight so straight from the beginning we knew we had to fight, win our battles and then the goals would come. It was a brilliant all-round performance but we knew we had it in us.
'We came here to a tough stadium after a couple of bad performances from our part and we dominated throughout the game so it’s a massive achievement for the manager and the whole group.
‘Our reaction from the last game was key. Frank spoke after saying we didn’t show enough balls in trying to get on the ball and play so to come here and do that was a big opportunity for us to show everyone that we’re not a team that’s going to get pushed over easily and we do have that fight within us.’
While the three points owed much to the collective effort, the match-winner was Willian with a first-half brace and Mount paid tribute to the Brazilian’s quality and consistency.
‘He’s a brilliant player,’ he said. ‘I was a big fan of his when I was younger coming through at Chelsea so now to train with him and play with him is a massive honour. I’m learning from him and it’s great.
‘He’s a world-class player and that’s what he brings in the big games - he steps up.’