Rio Ferdinand has hit out at critics of Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount, insisting he has “fantastic” spatial awareness and would be a “nightmare” to play against.
Mount was one of the young players to benefit from Frank Lampard’s focus on youth at Chelsea last season, in the wake of their transfer ban.
After managing him on loan at Derby, Lampard gave Mount his chance to impress at Stamford Bridge. The midfielder ended the 2019-20 campaign with seven goals and five assists from 37 Premier League appearances.
Mount also became an England international in 2019 and so far has 13 caps to his name.
Despite his prominence for club and country, the 22-year-old has not always been the most popular player. It was an issue that Lampard had to defend him from.
Mount is now having to adapt under a different coach in Thomas Tuchel. Lampard’s replacement left him out of his first game in charge, but has since restored his place.
Chelsea’s No. 19 played all 90 minutes of their win over Tottenham on Thursday. After the game, former Manchester United defender Ferdinand launched a passionate defence of the opinion-splitting Mount.
“I can’t believe he gets any stick,” Ferdinand told BT Sport of Mount.
“It baffles me, I don’t understand where all this comes from. I was lucky enough to go to the training ground and speak to him and I saw Frank as well and he was like, ‘this kid excites me’.
“He’s nowhere near the worst player at Chelsea. He’s created the most chances for them and been their most creative player this year, but still gets stick. It baffles me.
“He’d be a nightmare to play against. I think he’s someone who you’d be going to a game and be thinking, ‘oh it’s going to be hard work playing against him’.
“Because he’s always on the move, he plays away from players. You very rarely see him get the ball with someone touch tight to him because he’s so aware of space.
“His spatial awareness on the pitch is fantastic. He’s not marked, that’s not about players not marking him, it’s about him staying away from people and freeing himself to create chances to score goals.”
Tuchel believes in Mount potential
Manager Tuchel also spoke highly of Mount after the match, explaining why his opportunities have differed since Lampard’s departure.
“I cannot tell you where the limit is and I don’t want to put a limit on his development,” Tuchel said.
“It is obvious he has a lot of potential. He is a great footballer and super nice guy, eager to learn, hungry to win, open-minded and for that I think that for him, he can perform for any manager.
“He really means it, he has this internal motivation and a nice guy with a big personality. What more can you wish for? He’s top.
“We watched the team and under Frank he was a regular starter and there was no doubt that he’s a team player and has the potential that he has.
“We didn’t choose him for the first game because we opted for a slightly different profile on the two No. 10 positions for the first game.
“When he came in he showed what a big influence he can have also from the bench and from here there are no guarantees for anybody, also not for Mason right now.
“It is easy with him. He leaves his heart on the pitch, but everybody else does the same thing.
“It is a team effort and Mason is the first to agree on that and to behave like that. This is what we need.
“Is there room to improve? Yes. Is there a lot of room? Yes there is a lot of room to improve also for him and there are no gifts.
“He has to earn his place in every training and every match and the boy is a super nice guy and totally clear and he knows about it. He is a competitor and that is why we will keep on pushing him and the others.”