Versatile – Understanding how Thomas Tuchel utilizes Mason Mount in his Chelsea team

A regular feature

There were doubts if Thomas Tuchel would take to Mason Mount in a similar way as Frank Lampard. Mount was one of the first names on the team sheet under the English manager and his father stated how the midfielder knew that he had to earn his spot under Tuchel. (h/t football.london)

“He saw the players coming in as a massive challenge. People were saying he would lose his place and he was aware of that. He didn’t look at that as anything other than good for the club, good for the team, and a challenge for him. I remember talking to him about it and he said, ‘They won’t take my place, I’ll raise my game’.”

And that has happened. Mount is a regular in the Chelsea line-up and the 22-year-old has featured in every single Premier League game under the new boss so far. And 8 of those 10 appearances have been starts. It is safe to say that the English youngster is one of Tuchel’s trusted soldiers already.

The role

But what role does Mount actually play under Tuchel? Is he a winger? a central midfielder? or is he a No.10? Well, on paper, Mount has featured as an attacking midfielder. But his role goes far deeper than that and he plays in a variety of positions for the team.

A winger?

Mount playing as an attacking midfielder doesn’t mean he plays centrally. This is due to Chelsea’s formation under Thomas Tuchel. The former Dortmund manager deploys a 3-4-2-1 formation which has two attacking midfielders behind the target man. This changes to a small extent when Tuchel plays a 3-4-1-2 with two target men up front.

And Mount plays as the left attacking-midfielder in that formation. He is, thus, playing a hybrid role of a winger and a No.10. And that is clearly evident in his heatmaps in a handful of games.

Image A shows his average position when he started as an attacking midfielder against Liverpool and Manchester United. It is clear that he has the tendency to drift to the left-hand side and double up as a winger for Chelsea.

Image A.

Impacting games from the wings

And now citing some examples, Image B shows how Mount (black circle) picked up the ball on the left-hand side and drove inside to score against Liverpool in their 1-0 win at Anfield this season.

Image B.

It becomes clear how Tuchel envisions Mount in his team. He sees him (blue circle) as a left-sided attacking midfielder who can often hug the touchline or double up on the flanks with full-back Marcos Alonso (white circle), as visible in Image C in their game against Southampton.

Image C.

Versatility

Mount has the tendency at times to play down the middle. This usually happens when he interchanges positions with someone in Chelsea’s frontline. An excellent example of this is when he scored against Sheffield United this season under Tuchel.

However, before that, let’s start with the game against Southampton where he started as the No.10 in the line-up. According to the formation, he was going to play centrally. But he still drifted out wide regularly. Image C is evidence of that, while the heatmap from that game in Image D highlights his dual role.

Image D. (SofaScore)

Now, his goal in the same game is where his role as a free-roaming attacking midfielder gets highlighted. Image F shows Mount (blue circle) making a run inside the box in a central area, where he is fouled, while Werner (red circle) is the furthest Chelsea player down the left-wing. The resulting penalty is dispatched as Chelsea finish the game 1-1.

Image F.

A better example of this dual role was seen in Chelsea’s 2-1 win against Sheffield United in the Premier League under their new boss.

Image G shows how Timo Werner (white circle), Chelsea’s striker in that game, drifts down the wing in order to stretch the Saints’ defence. The German striker crosses the ball into the box, where Mount (blue circle) is unmarked and attacking the ball.

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Image G.

This could be down to the fact that Sheffield’s defenders would lose their man if opposition players interchange position like that. It would become difficult for them to constantly regulate who marks whom when the Chelsea front three keeps moving around.

And this is a constant theme that Tuchel utilizes where Mount interchanges position and the Chelsea ‘front 3’ move around to play different positions at times.

As for another example, have a look at Image H where Werner (white circle) drops into Mount’s position of a left-sided attacking midfielder, while the 22-year-old plays momentarily as a striker to run at the Tottenham defence in their 1-0 win under Tuchel.

Image H.

What’s different?

Tuchel plays Mount as an attacking midfielder, and a player in that position will, of course, change positions from time to time. But what makes Mount’s positional change so interesting is how frequently that happens.

This is why his heatmap in the Premier League this season, under both Frank Lampard and Thomas Tuchel, looks so well spread-out despite him mostly playing as a left-sided midfielder. The analysis above proves that he drifts on both flanks, plays centrally, and even interchanges places with the strikers to make runs inside the box.

Image I. (SofaScore)

And what’s peculiar is that things are not all that different from when he was playing under Frank Lampard. The former Chelsea manager did play a different formation but Mount was regularly played as a left-side central midfielder.

The only significant difference seems to be how Tuchel has rid Mount of his defensive responsibilities. Take, for example, Lampard’s second-last Premier League game in charge. Chelsea started in an attacking 4-3-3 formation where Mount played as a left-sided midfielder, akin to where Tuchel plays him.

But he was so much more involved defensively. Under Tuchel, Mount is free to attack with lesser defensive responsibility. This becomes evident in Image J where his touches against Leicester in a 2-0 loss under Lampard, and in the 0-0 draw against Manchester United under Tuchel are compared.

Image J. LEFT- vs. Leicester City, RIGHT- vs. Manchester United. (WhoScored)

Is Mount benefiting?

It seems that way. He has scored thrice in the league already and Chelsea are looking much more solid with him in the side. Mount has 3 goals in the last 7 league games under Tuchel. As compared to that, he scored just twice in the first 18 games of this Premier League season under Lampard.

As for the results, Chelsea are still unbeaten under Thomas Tuchel in all competitions, and Mount has featured in all of those games in the league. It is thus clear that Mount is a big part of Tuchel’s successful formula at Chelsea and when something is going so well, there is no need to change that.

Verdict

Tuchel has come in and paid more attention to Chelsea’s defence, which is visible in their excellent defensive record. He has largely tweaked the Blues’ defensive formation and opted to not move Mount around too much.

The English midfielder does, however, has lesser defensive workload. And that is translating into more goals for him on the pitch. But Mount’s role is more than goals and assists. The midfielder is a vital part of Chelsea’s fluid attack which sees their front-three mix and match their positions in games.

He might play as a left-sided attacking midfielder, but he plays a lot of other roles. He is seen playing everywhere across the attack and in midfield when necessary. And his creative juices are still flowing at Chelsea.

Image K. (Understat.com)

Image K shows how Mount has been a very potent chance creator for Chelsea in the league this season (min. 3 appearances) and Tuchel is using the midfielder in an attacking area where he can create, and get on the end of chances. He is slowly becoming a player that Tuchel would think twice about before dropping from the starting XI.

Aniket Rai

An ordinary football fan, doing what he loves.

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Aniket Rai