When Chelsea signed Kai Havertz earlier this summer, one of the most common reactions from rival fans and from journalists writing about the Blues’ mega-summer was to look back on last season’s “project” with scorn.
“So much for playing the youth” they crowed, certain that the progress of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Reece James and the other young academy stars that had broken through in the last year was now about to be halted.
“All that hype and now they’ll be sent on loan to Vitesse again!” they chuckled knowingly on various podcasts and talk radio stations.
There is no doubt that the competition has been ramped up in the squad now, and we will likely never see our academy relied on as heavily as it was last season again, given the unique circumstances. But anyone who is writing off those players who made the step up in the last 12 months as ready to be discarded seriously hasn’t been paying attention.
Mason Mount is the prime example. According to the confident predictions of those eager to dismantle the work of the last year, Havertz was going to sweep in and relegate the midfielder to the bench, and then probably to another club.
As it turns out, the opposite has been true. Mount has racked up 480 minutes this season, starting and finishing all 5 of the fixtures we’ve played so far.
Far from dropping out of contention, his problem is going to be playing too much, not too little – just like a year ago, when he slogged valiantly from August until December, when his form finally fell off as he ran out of juice.
By comparison, new man Havertz, has played just 279 minutes thus far. We don’t expect the disparity between the two to remain so great, and Mount will have to be rested at some point, but within a month of the season starting we’ve already cured those concerns that his role is going to be diminished at all.
In those 5 games we’ve seen the very best of the 21 year old, and been reminded of exactly why Frank Lampard loves him so much. His versatility has allowed him to slot in to various positions as the manager has shuffled his incomplete squad through these opening fixtures. His fantastic work rate compensates for the lower intensity play of some of the new arrivals, his eye for goal was evident as he lashed in against West Brom to start our comeback on Saturday, and he grabbed an assist against Barnsley after Tammy’s clever stepover.
And who was it on the end of that assist to score? One Kai Havertz.
Perhaps when the dust settles, those same talking heads will be discussing how well Mount and his fellow youth graduates are playing in the new and improved Blues team, rather than still dismissing their chances of a future at Stamford Bridge.