Things are beginning to take shape under manager Frank Lampard following the 2-1 friendly win over Barcelona earlier today.
It’s best not to read too much into pre-season games. As it would have been going overboard to respond too negatively to the Blues’ defeat to Kawasaki Frontale last week, it’s important not to read too much into the victory over Barca either.
However, there are some interesting takeaways from the match and one in particular that fans should take notice of. Although Lampard has suggested he’ll look to employ a number of systems this season, the heavy use of the 4-2-3-1 in preseason so far indicates that this will be his preferred formation.
If that is the case, we can expect the likes of Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante as well as Tiemoue Bakayoko and even Danny Drinkwater to fill the two deeper midfield roles. What is more interesting, though, is the battle for the more advanced number 10 position.
Against Barcelona, we saw two of the potential candidates for the role: Mason Mount and Ross Barkley. During the first sixty minutes against Barca we saw a confident and assured Mount staking his claim, while in the last half an hour, Barkley showed what he could do finishing well with his left foot to make it 2-0.
So, who should start the season in that critical role? Let’s look at the pros and cons of the two players:
The 25-year-old has had a good preseason and looks far more confident in a more advanced position. He already has a good deal of experience in the top flight, having made 231 senior appearances for both the Blues and Everton.
Some feel Barkley has failed to reach his full potential, and his lack of consistency has made him a lightning rod for criticism at times. Lampard is, though, the perfect player to iron out the kinks in his game and help him learn the ins and outs of the number 10 role.
The 20-year-old does lack the experience of Barkley and has never played in the Premier League, which means there are still question marks over whether he can step up to the level required.
Still, there is a lot in his favour. He scores more goals than Barkley and that’s very important in the position that he’ll be asked to play. Even more importantly, he knows exactly what Lampard wants from him following a year under his tutelage at Derby.
Mount can play the box to box role, like Lampard once did, arriving late in the box to bag important goals.
For my money, despite the step-up that will be required, I would back Mount to start ahead of Barkley currently. Whether the Chelsea manager sees it the same way, we shall see.