This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Mason Mount started in the number 10 role for Chelsea as Frank Lampard’s men beat Barcelona 2-1 in their final game of their Japan tour.
The Blues have had a mixed pre-season, but their first goal at Barcelona showed a glimpse of the Chelsea legend’s vision as he looks to guide his team back to their former glory.
Tammy Abraham was the goalscorer as Jorginho pressed Sergio Busquets and won the ball for the ex-Aston Villa striker to stroke it past the goalkeeper.
The 4-2-3-1 formation is being used less and less frequently, and that’s mainly because number 10s are more often than not fielded on the wing or in central midfield role. Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva are two examples of players who have moved centrally, whereas Bernardo Silva has enjoyed most of his game-time both in the middle and out on the right wing.
However, it looks as though Mount won’t have to adapt his game, with his boss starting him in the last three friendlies, twice as a number 10. This tactic is already looking to be particularly vital for the way Chelsea want to play.
Against Barcelona, you got a flavour for what this team is trying to achieve. Mount’s role was imperative to his side scoring that first goal even though he never made a tackle or interception throughout the move, as he stood in front of Gerard Pique blocking the passing lane for both Oriol and Sergio Busquets when they received the ball.
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This forced passes into tighter, more dangerous central areas of the pitch, which encouraged the press from Chelsea’s midfield. Pressing is a very modern way of playing the game, but doing it without a midfield three goes against what we’ve seen Manchester City and Liverpool do so successfully over the years.
By lining up with a number 10, that player can press the opposition centre-backs along with the striker and defend in what looks like a 4-4-2 shape. It remains to be seen whether, in competitive matches, playing just two central midfielders leads to being over-run, but the early evidence suggests that it could work well if executed correctly. Having played with Lampard for a year already, Mount may well be key to ensuring the tactic works as intended.