Mason Mount is sporting a new tattoo and reflecting on his 2021. The tattoo itself is a permanent reminder of the highlight of what he calls “a crazy year”, commemorating the night that the boy from Portsmouth became a champion of Europe.
He is in impressive form, having scored in four of his last five appearances for Chelsea. Only Mohamed Salah is producing a goal or an assist more frequently than Mount in the Premier League this season, his game now evolving under Thomas Tuchel.
But first, a word on that tattoo.
“It is something that I thought of after the final,” he tells Sky Sports. “It has taken quite a long time to get the design and everything that I wanted but Miles, the tattooist, is brilliant, one of the best in the business. He did an unbelievable job with it.
“Obviously the stadium was Estadio do Dragao so I wanted that involved just for the memory of where we played and the atmosphere that was around the game. Having the dragon around the trophy just felt right for me. I am really happy with it and I love it.”
Mount’s assist in that game decided the Champions League final. He made the Ballon d’Or shortlist but would have been higher up it had England won Euro 2020 too – he would have been the only man to start and win the continent’s two biggest matches this summer.
“It was a rollercoaster and it all went so quickly,” he says of his year. “To end the season with a trophy and then go to the Euros was unbelievable for me and I learned so much.”
Momentum was curtailed at the start of this season. “I had a little problem with my hammy so I missed a couple of games.” He returned with a hat-trick against Norwich but missed the next Premier League game at Newcastle because of problems with his wisdom teeth.
“It was not a fun experience. I woke up and I knew it was not right so I went all the way back to London. I had to get all four of them out. It was so frustrating because in terms of your body you feel like you can play. You are not injured, but it has a big effect.”
With the operation done, Mount, 22, is making up for lost time. “I have no problems and I can fully focus on football.” He has started the last six games and his goal against Everton meant he has already matched his best ever Premier League goal tally of seven.
He used to set himself the target of 10 for the season but no longer. “I am not content, I want to score more and more. It is a big part of my game and it means a lot to me.”
A change of role under Tuchel has opened up the possibilities.
“My first year or two I played in a bit of a deeper role as an eight. Now I am playing higher up as a 10-slash-winger so that gives me more opportunities to make it into the box. They want me in the box and being a threat going forward so that is a big focus of mine.”
The statistics show that Mount is having more touches in the opposition box than ever before, and hence more shots too. “I have seen that improvement in the last few games in terms of the chances I am getting now just from trying to get into the box,” he says.
“Having more touches in the opposition box shows it is working.”
His switch to the right is now considered a little unusual for a right-footed player. “Last year, I was mainly on the left. I became very used to cutting inside on my right last season. Now there is maybe more focus on crossing and going down the line to cut balls back.”
But his relationship with fellow academy graduate Reece James, someone he has known “for a very long time” is blossoming. It was James who played the ball into his path for the opening goal against Everton, his fifth assist of the season. “He has been playing brilliantly.”
The combination play between the two might be Chelsea’s best weapon.
“I know how he plays and I know how he likes to combine with someone. It is us on the right trying to create chances and work off each other. When he moves inside, I go on the outside, when I move inside, he stays wide. It is all about getting the best from each other.”
Mount went on the outside for the Everton goal, just as he did when lashing in a volley against West Ham. But his left-footed effort against Leeds showed why he is flourishing in this new role – he also has the ability to make penetrative runs towards the near post.
“It is a different position with different demands but I am comfortable coming inside and finishing with my weaker foot. I have always tried to work on being a threat with both.”
His first nine Premier League goals came with his favoured right boot but that Leeds goal was made in his garage at home under the tutelage of his father. He would even wear different coloured socks, training the brain about the importance of using both feet.
“I remember he used to tell me that so I would go in there and kick a ball against the wall 100 times with each foot without messing up,” recalls Mount.
“I remember being in there hour after hour just kicking that ball. I did it for years. It just helps that feeling, that touch, because you do not want it to feel any different when you are on your left foot to your right. That has definitely been a big help for me.
“The ball comes into the box and you have no idea how it is going to fall. You cannot have thoughts in your head, like, ‘It is on my left, I am not going to hit it.’ You just have to take it in your stride and hit the target. That is exactly what I try to do.”
There was a shush gesture towards the Leeds fans in the away end at Stamford Bridge. They remember him from his time on loan at rivals Derby County. “Fans don’t forget anything do they? So they gave me some stick but you want that back and forth. I thrive off it.”
As a boyhood Portsmouth fan, he is looking forward to Chelsea’s back-to-back games against Southampton and Leeds in April. Especially with them both coming away from home. “That is even better. It will obviously be hostile but you have to use that. I love it.”
This is the sort of mentality that quickly won over Tuchel. When he was left out of the German’s first team selection in January, there were concerns. Mount started the next seven and soon became a favourite. The new manager has elevated his game.
“He has definitely improved my attacking play. I had never really played as high up as I have under him before in my career. It is about getting into the box more, being more clinical, the final pass. It is about really putting that pressure on myself to be someone who creates.”
The pressure is on everyone at Chelsea now. Only Manchester City have beaten them at Stamford Bridge this season but points have been leaked away in three of their last four home games. The leaders have now opened up a six-point gap on Mount’s team.
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“When you are putting that pressure on yourself to win the Premier League, every game brings pressure, every point counts. We were top for a bit, we draw some games and we drop down to third. That shows that if you drop points, the race can be over very quickly.
“The title has always been our goal. We want to be up there. More than ever this season, we feel like we have a big chance. We can definitely do it. We have the confidence. But we need to be humble and focused too. We need to keep doing the basics well.”
If Chelsea can do that, perhaps there will be another tattoo.
“I don’t think I can do it for every trophy or I would be covered by the end of my career, hopefully,” he laughs. “But we will see. That is the goal. That is the dream.”
Mason Mount was speaking at the launch of the new Call of Duty: Warzone map ‘Caldera’ which is set in the Pacific. Call of Duty will be offering flights and accommodation to the Pacific to lucky winners. For your chance of winning, click here to enter.