Eddy Reynoso: How mentor for Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez became the hottest trainer in boxing

By Sports Desk February 27, 2021

If Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez fails to defend his WBA and WBC super-middleweight titles against Avni Yildirim, it would amount to an upset of Tyson-Douglas proportions and probably beyond. 

The unheralded Yildirim is the WBC's mandatory challenger despite dropping a technical decision to Anthony Dirrell in his last bout two years ago. 

On his previous venture up to world level in 2017, the 29-year-old was demolished inside three rounds by Chris Eubank Jr. 

Nevertheless, becoming the undisputed champion at 168lbs is the dream for Canelo and, if WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders and IBF ruler Caleb Plant are to be brought to heel by the end of 2021, Yildirim must first be dispatched. 

Remarkably, Canelo would be the first fighter from Mexico to hold all four major belts in a division and this quest for legacy is one he shares with Eddy Reynoso, the trainer who has been by his side throughout a sparkling career. 

The relative lack of jeopardy in the fight means this week in Miami has served as something of a victory lap for Reynoso, the quiet sideman who might already have settled the argument for trainer of the year at this early stage. 

Reynoso, 44, has built a stable that is the envy of many in the sport – a story that can be traced back to the moment a youngster walked into his gym in Guadalajara and changed both their lives.

Fighting families ruling the world

Reynoso enjoyed a brief amateur career but decided against mixing it in the pros, having already been bitten by the training bug. 

He began working alongside his father Chepo when an alliance with another fighting family would prove life-changing. 

A young Canelo came down to the gym with one of his boxing brothers, Rigoberto. He and Reynoso instantly hit it off. 

"We are like family. Working with Eddy and Chepo has been a great experience," the boxer told Ring Magazine in 2016. "They've taught me discipline, hard work, respect and loyalty." 

That loyalty came through its defining test in the aftermath of Canelo finding himself on the receiving end of a Floyd Mayweather masterclass in 2013. 

The temptation might have been to ditch his little-known cornerman after being outclassed by Mayweather and seek out one of the sport's bigger names. For Canelo it was not even a consideration. 

In 13 fights since that sole career defeat, the 30-year-old has won titles at light-middleweight, middleweight, super-middleweight and light-heavyweight, counting Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Daniel Jacobs and Callum Smith among his victims. 

There was also the small matter of a pair of blockbusters against middleweight king Gennadiy Golovkin. The first of two instant classics was called a draw, with Canelo edging the second on the scorecards. 

A formidable blend of blistering body shots, slick combinations, miserly defence and impeccable head movement and counter-punching placed Canelo at the top of the boxing world, also making Reynoso a man in demand. 

Grooming Garcia for greatness

Despite racing to a record of 16-0 at only 20 years of age, Ryan Garcia decided he needed a change after an unconvincing win over Carlos Morales. 

Already identified as a future star of the sport by promoter Oscar de la Hoya and a huge hit with the Instagram crowd, Garcia needed a little substance to go with the obvious style. 

"I've had a few meetings with Ryan, and he comes off as very disciplined, very happy and dedicated," said Reynoso after his appointment to head up Team Garcia. 

"But he's a fighter who needs to work on how to go forward, how to go backward, his defence and counterpunching. He has some boxing bad habits we need to take away." 

Not much to go at then? 

Four victories followed in quick time, with Garcia's dynamite left hook – already something of a Reynoso stable trademark – flattening each of Romero Duno and Francisco Fonseca within a round. 

That set up an intriguing crossroads showdown with London 2012 gold medal winner and two-time world title challenger Luke Campbell on January 2. 

When the Briton caught Garcia flush on the jaw and decked him in round two, sceptics were ready to unload on a hype job and an Instagram fighter. 

Such verdicts had to be torn up, however, as the youngster raged against adversity to stop Campbell with a brutal body shot in the seventh.

It was a highlight reel knockout of technical precision as Garcia feinted his favourite shot upstairs before turning the left hook into Campbell's ribs. It was a stoppage that an elated Canelo was seen mimicking during dressing room celebrations afterwards. 

Operating in the white-hot lightweight division, 'King Ry' is riding the crest of a wave, with Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney and maybe even Teofimo Lopez in his sights.

Adding value to Valdez

Six months prior to Garcia's move, undefeated featherweight champion Oscar Valdez claimed a March 2018 victory that was also not altogether satisfactory, although in far more painful circumstances. 

A brutal battle with Scott Quigg, who failed to make weight, saw Valdez keep his WBO belt at the cost of a badly broken jaw. For his trouble, former super-bantamweight champ Quigg was bloodied by eye damage and a broken nose. 

There are only so many wars a fighter can realistically subject themselves to over the course of a career and, once on the mend, Valdez also decided to turn to Reynoso. 

A couple of low-key defences followed before he vacated the WBO belt and faced up to claims he was ducking rising star Shakur Stevenson. 

Valdez, 30, had seen his star dwindle to such an extent that he was an almost a 4-1 betting underdog last weekend when he faced WBC champion and compatriot Miguel Berchelt in Las Vegas. 

Oscar had a different screenplay in mind as he dropped Berchelt in both the fourth and ninth rounds, eventually closing the show with an explosive KO in the 10th. Of course, it was the left hook. 

"There's nothing better in life than proving people wrong," Valdez said. "I have a list of people who doubted me. My idols doubted me. Boxing analysts doubted me. 

"They said Berchelt was going to knock me out. I have a message to everybody: Don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do." 

Heavyweights on notice

Another man seeking to prove the doubters wrong with Reynoso's esteemed help is former unified heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. 

Ruiz has not fought since arriving in Saudi Arabia rotund and rudderless for his rematch against Anthony Joshua, who racked up a landslide December 2019 points win over the man who had left him dazed and confused in New York six months earlier. 

The eyes of the boxing world are on whether Joshua and Tyson Fury will meet in their anticipated undisputed clash this year, leaving Ruiz to plot a path back to the top away from the limelight. 

"He's lost about 20 pounds and he also has more muscle," Reynoso told Behind the Gloves this week. "He's not as fat as he was before. He can move his hips a lot better and that helps him move around in the ring. 

"I'd love to see him fight Joshua again. With good training I think he could beat him. He's already beaten him. It just takes a little bit of discipline and a good training camp." 

Proving the doubters wrong using the guidance of one of the sharpest minds in the sport today? Canelo, Garcia and Valdez can tell Ruiz plenty about that in the gym, all while under the watchful eye of Reynoso. 

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  • Los Angeles Chargers: How Herbert and Co. can ascend in 2021 Los Angeles Chargers: How Herbert and Co. can ascend in 2021

    Despite playing in a disappointingly empty new SoFi Stadium, few teams managed to electrify more than the Los Angeles Chargers last season.

    Even the most ardent Chargers fan would admit that, prior to 2020, there hadn't been much appetite for the franchise in Los Angeles.

    It will be interesting to see to what extent that has changed if fans are allowed in stadiums in 2021, following a record-setting rookie season from Justin Herbert.

    Herbert silenced all the doubters who questioned the Chargers for taking him with the sixth overall pick, delivering a remarkable campaign that earned him the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

    It still was not enough to stop the Chargers from enduring a season defined by gaffes and late-game heartbreak, head coach Anthony Lynn paying with his job despite a four-game winning streak to end the year 7-9.

    Fuelling further optimism is the appointment of Brandon Staley as Lynn's replacement.

    Staley earned widespread plaudits for what he did as the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams in 2020, building a reputation as one of the most innovative defensive minds in the game.

    He will hope to get the most of a defense stacked with blue-chip talent while offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is tasked with helping Herbert to the next step in his development.

    What can that duo learn from the Chargers' performances of last season? Using Stats Perform data we look back on a 2020 campaign that left Chargers fans excited about what this team could become.

    Offense

    Herbert went into his rookie season being seen as an inferior quarterback to Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. As a rookie, he outperformed both, becoming the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season having not played the opener.

    He came in for Tyrod Taylor after the Week 1 starter had his lung punctured by a team doctor who was administering a painkilling injection.

    That error proved serendipitous for everyone but Taylor, who had to play the role of the onlooker as Herbert racked up the second-most passing yards by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. Herbert's 4,336 trailed only Andrew Luck, who racked up 4,374 with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.

    Herbert was also second all-time among rookies with his completion percentage of 66.6, falling shy of Dak Prescott who connected on 67.8 in 2016. Where Herbert did set rookie records was in completions (396), passing yards per game (289.1), passing touchdowns (31) and 300-yard games, of which he recorded eight.

    Yet for all the remarkable exploits of the sixth overall pick, finishing drives and scoring points remained an issue for the Chargers.

    They ranked 21st in red zone touchdown efficiency and in average red zone points, putting up 4.79 per trip inside the 20-yard line of their opponents.

    Many will see the departure of Lynn, heavily criticised for his play-calling and game management in key situations, as a significant step towards the Chargers improving in that regard.

    But Los Angeles will also look for more from the running game. An injury-affected season for Austin Ekeler hindered the ground attack, which was 30th in yards per rush (3.83) and tied 27th in touchdowns (12).

    Too often Herbert led the Chargers into the red zone only to see the drive end in a field goal or a stop for the defense. While Ekeler being at full health would help, the onus will be on Lombardi to ensure their issues inside the 20 are less frequent in 2021.

    Defense

    As is so often the case with the Chargers, misfortune was a critical factor in their defense not realising its potential.

    They lost Derwin James for the season before a ball had even been snapped, the All-Pro safety sidelined following torn meniscus surgery.

    It was also another year in which edge rusher Joey Bosa did not play a full season. Had both of those stars been available for the entire year, the Chargers might not have ranked so poorly in opponent scoring efficiency.

    The Chargers ranked 23rd in that respect and 21st in opponent touchdown efficiency, with an inability to create turnovers playing a role in their issues.

    They generated 19 takeaways in 2020, putting the Chargers tied for 22nd in the NFL, though that number was only three fewer than Staley's Rams defense registered last season.

    However, the Rams scored 15 more points off takeaways than the Chargers and were significantly better at creating negative plays for opposing offenses overall.

    The Rams forced 88 negative plays for minus 441 yards, ranking seventh in the league, while the Chargers were 30th with 72 negative plays for minus 222 yards.

    Yet Staley should be confident he can create a similar formula to what he had with the Rams, with Aaron Donald wreaking havoc up front and Jalen Ramsey an eraser in the secondary. Bosa and James are excellent candidates to fill those roles for the Chargers.

    Los Angeles will need to add talent around that duo for this defense to realise its potential, but the Chargers do possess the resources with which to do that.

    Offseason

    The Chargers used what financial resources they had, in a year where the salary cap was reduced, to beef up the offensive line and ensure Herbert will have the benefit of better protection.

    Corey Linsley was signed to a five-year, $62million deal that was more than justified after a 2020 season in which he was named first-team All-Pro, having allowed a pressure rate of 2.8 per cent last season (NFL average: 4.9).

    The versatile and underrated right tackle Matt Feiler arrived on a three-year deal from the Pittsburgh Steelers while another tackle, Oday Aboushi, was brought in on a one-year contract.

    Los Angeles will hope Jared Cook can help fill the void left by tight end Hunter Henry’s departure to New England. Cook produced a big play on 31.6 per cent of his targets in 2020. The league average for tight ends is 26.1 per cent.

    Further help for Herbert, who suffered the ninth-most sacks in the NFL (32) last season, may come with pick 13 in the draft if the Chargers choose to spend it on a long-term solution at left tackle.

    However, with Casey Hayward and Melvin Ingram still on the open market and Rayshawn Jenkins having left for Jacksonville, cornerback, edge rusher and safety are all areas Los Angeles could target.

    After hiring a defensive mastermind at head coach, better support from that unit and cleaner pockets for their franchise quarterback will be the keys to the Chargers going from upstart to playoff team in Staley's first season.

  • 17 days in April: A Clasico World Series 17 days in April: A Clasico World Series

    Pep Guardiola had a simple message for the fans after becoming Barcelona head coach in 2008: "Fasten your seatbelts."

    In April 2011, the Catalan press recalled that promise of excitement as they previewed a once-in-a-generation event: four matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid, with three trophies at stake, in 17 days. A Clasico World Series. A defining run of fixtures where winning was everything and losing was unimaginable, with each side dreaming of celebrating a treble and terrified of watching the other do the same.

    More like fasten your bandoliers. This was war.

    On one side, the Barca of Guardiola, the man taking the coaching world by storm in his first senior post-playing job. A team built from La Masia, boasting some of the academy's greatest ever products: Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi. With the ball on their 'carousel', they were the pinnacle of possession-based attacking play, proof that technical accomplishment could triumph over brute force. They were chasing a second treble in three seasons, and under Guardiola, they had never lost a final.

    It could be said Madrid were afraid of this new Barca, and in their fear, they made a deal with the devil. In came Jose Mourinho, the man whose Inter thwarted Barca's attempts to play a Champions League final at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010. His task was not so much to knock the Catalans off their perch, but to raze the perch to the ground. A league champion in Portugal, England and Italy, the mastermind of Inter's historic treble, with two of history's most expensive signings in Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka at his disposal, Mourinho's task was clear: stop Barca at all costs.

    For some, this went beyond the two best teams in the world going head-to-head for trophies. This was a meeting of minds, a clash of styles, a fight for football's very soul. And so, in the spring of 2011, the battle lines were drawn. On April 16, Barca were to host Madrid in La Liga. Four days later, they would meet neutrally at Valencia's Mestalla in the Copa del Rey final. Then came the biggest of all: a two-legged Champions League semi-final for the right to face Manchester United at Wembley.

    Seven goals, 167 fouls, 24 yellow cards and four reds later, Barca emerged as Champions League finalists and shoo-ins for the La Liga title. Madrid held the Copa del Rey.

    And neither team, nor coach, would ever be quite the same again.

    April 16, 2011: Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona

    The opening skirmish.

    With Barca leading La Liga by eight points heading into the match, having won 26 and drawn three of their previous 29 top-flight games, few realistically believed a defeat would see them throw away the title. This was more of a warm-up act for what was to come, and the chance for Madrid – and Mourinho – to prove they had learned from the reverse fixture: a 5-0 evisceration at Camp Nou in November.

    Certainly, there were changes. Madrid had just 33 per cent of the ball in the first game and that dropped to 24 per cent here, as they completed 234 passes to Barca's 791.

    And yet they carried a much greater threat than before: They had more shots than Barca (13-11) and six on target, both the most they managed in any Clasico that term. Even after going a goal and a man down – Messi scoring a penalty after Raul Albiol was sent off for fouling David Villa – they salvaged a point after Ronaldo buried a spot-kick of his own.

    Mourinho was starting to make his mark. Madrid committed 22 fouls, with Pepe accounting for five of them. Only Lassana Diarra conceded more free kicks in any of the four matches. There were seven bookings, five of them for Barca, whose frustrations with the Madrid approach were summed up neatly when Messi booted the ball into the stands. Only three players created more than one goalscoring chance: Xavi, Angel Di Maria… and Pepe.

    For Mourinho, Albiol's red card was key. Although his side snatched a draw, they seemed at the mercy of the Barca circulation machine: 10 of Guardiola's players managed more than 30 passes, including substitute Seydou Keita, while only Sami Khedira (31) did so for Madrid. Xavi, who made 144 on his own, would average 139 per game across the four encounters.

    "Eleven against 10 and it was practically mission impossible," said Mourinho. "Especially against a team that – with possession of the ball – are the best in the world."

    The title race was out of Madrid's hands. However, in a one-off contest, things looked different…

     

    April 20, 2011: Barcelona 0-1 Real Madrid

    "We knew that whoever scored first would win it," said Mourinho. "And so it proved."

    Ronaldo's 42nd goal of the season, a towering header from Di Maria's cross, was enough to decide a cup final spanning 120 gruelling minutes in Valencia. It was Ronaldo and Mourinho's first Madrid trophy, Guardiola's first final defeat, and an end to his dreams of a second treble.

    It was also a doubling-down by Mourinho on his pervading methods. Madrid allowed Barca 79 per cent of the ball with the Catalans' 901 passes nearly four times as many as their opponents managed. Concrete opportunities, again, were scarce: there were just four shots on target each from a total of 27.

    This time, Barca got sucked into the fight. They committed 24 fouls, their most in any Clasico that season, with each side earning three bookings apiece, and Di Maria was sent off in the dying moments. Their more combative approach neither improved Barca's play nor disrupted Madrid further; however, Los Blancos created nine chances in the contest, only one fewer than Barca, despite yielding so much of the possession.

    "Life is like that – you can't always win," Guardiola rued. "We can take them on over two games – we've just done that," goaded Mourinho. And the world waited for what would come next.

    April 27, 2011: Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona

    The drama started on the eve of the match when Guardiola finally snapped.

    His rant at Mourinho, "the f****** boss," was his most public display of anger, his patience exhausted by his opponent's needling. The final straw had been Mourinho describing Pep as a unique coach "that criticises referees when they get decisions right".

    In that explosive news conference delivered mostly to "Mourinho's camera", Guardiola promised: "Tomorrow, 8.45 p.m., we will take to the field and we will try to play football as best as possible."

    One man certainly did.

    Messi had struggled to exert huge influence in the first two games. He had only one shot on target in the cup final, for instance. He was harried, kicked and crowded out at the Santiago Bernabeu this time, and yet won only two free-kicks as Barca committed more fouls than their opponents for the first time. It seemed Mourinho's mind games were paying off.

    This, perhaps foreshadowed in the pregame build-up involving their managers, was the most ill-tempered, poisonous game of the lot. There were three red cards shown: one to Barca substitute Jose Pinto, one to Pepe for a foul on Dani Alves, and one to Mourinho for his sarcastic praise of the officials. Again, though, Madrid's 10 men looked capable of salvaging a result, until Messi was unleashed at last. His first was a relative tap-in, a close-range finish from Ibrahim Afellay's cross. It is a goal that is easily forgotten due to what came after. Busquets rolled the ball into his path, and Messi was off – away from Diarra, away from Albiol, beyond Marcelo, before squeezing a low finish past Iker Casillas.

    It was his 11th goal in 11 Champions League games, his 52nd of the season, and perhaps the greatest he has ever scored: for the occasion, the speed, the execution, the kicks that failed to stop him.

    May 3, 2011: Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid

    Everyone, it seemed, felt the tie was already over. Madrid decided to prioritise chasing Barca players over chasing the game, committing 30 fouls for the return of a single shot on target. At least nobody was sent off.

    Gonzalo Higuain thought he had given Madrid the lead, but it was disallowed for a foul by Ronaldo in the build-up. Marcelo cancelled out Pedro's eventual opener, but it was Barca who went through – and Madrid who went apoplectic.

    "We feel tricked by the officials," Casillas said afterwards.

    "Next year, they might as well give the cup to Barcelona," complained Ronaldo.

    Mourinho was facing possible punishment for suggesting referees favoured the Blaugrana, while both teams vowed to make official complaints to UEFA about the other.

    The battle was done, the hostilities over (on the pitch, at least). Crucially, though, the events of these matches hardened Mourinho's resolve. "Now I have more willingness to continue in charge of Real Madrid for what this means," he said. "This jersey is white, and white now has more significance."

     

    The aftermath

    Over those two spectacular weeks, the teams shared two draws and one win apiece. Barca, though, were the victors: a third league title in a row and a second Champions League triumph under Guardiola easily made up for losing the Copa final.

    Mourinho, however, would not lose the war.

    These games, and the 5-4 two-legged Supercopa de Espana defeat in August – one made infamous by Mourinho poking Barca assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye – showed the Portuguese the way to conquer Spain: disrupt Barca and destroy the rest. His players seemed galvanised, and they proved it.

    In 2010-11, Barca finished on 96 points, four ahead of Madrid. Interestingly, they only scored 95 goals to their rivals' 102, while conceding 12 goals fewer. They lost just two games to Madrid's four.

    Mourinho's response was to develop Madrid not into a team impossible to beat, but one that could barely stop winning. Records tumbled in 2011-12: 32 victories from 38 games, 121 goals scored, 100 points accrued. His Faustian pact with Madrid had paid off, but those vitriolic two campaigns took their toll. He has had three times as many job changes as league titles in the decade since.

    Barca also scored more that season: 114 times in the league overall, 50 of which came from Messi. Overall, though, their exceptional standards had slipped just enough. After three intense seasons under Guardiola and the brutality of El Clasico's rivalry, they just couldn't sustain it any longer. At the end of the season, Guardiola announced he was stepping down, admitting: "Four years is an eternity as Barca coach… I have nothing left."

  • Mount's Everest: Chelsea's beacon of homegrown hope proving he's more than just a 'teacher's pet' Mount's Everest: Chelsea's beacon of homegrown hope proving he's more than just a 'teacher's pet'

    When FIFA last year announced they were set to introduce limits on the number of players teams could send out on loan, unsurprisingly many people's first thoughts turned to Chelsea.

    At the time, the Blues remarkably had 28 players at other clubs, though this was by no means a recent trend: in 2018-19 that figure was 41.

    The 'hoarding' of talent might be a solid ploy when looking to stunt the growth of a rival team or generate long-term revenue on Football Manager, but in the real world it was a practice that had long attracted criticism.

    While by no means the only club in the world to have lots of young players out on loan, Chelsea have – rightly or wrongly – arguably been the most synonymous with it.

    Some feel this has directly contributed to the club's struggles in developing homegrown talent because they have so many players, whereas others believe it offers a greater number of individuals the chance to play first-team football at a higher level than the Under-23s.

    Putting aside some of the moral issues, Mason Mount falls into the latter category and proves there is a route to the first team through the fog of war for Chelsea's loan army.

    By his own admission Mount needed an extra kick when he was in Chelsea's Under-23s as an 18-year-old, and that led to his temporary switch to the Eredivisie with Vitesse Arnhem, where he won the club's Player of the Year award.

    But it's unlikely even he realised how important his next move would be as he linked up with Chelsea great Frank Lampard.

    In at the deep end

    Mount made 44 appearances across all competitions for Derby County in 2018-19 as they missed out on promotion in the play-off final, but regardless of that ultimate disappointment it proved a massive year for both he and Lampard.

    With Maurizio Sarri departing Stamford Bridge to join Juventus despite Europa League success, Lampard was brought back to the club as head coach. Given his status and the trust he placed in young players – and, more pertinently, young players owned by Chelsea – at Derby, Lampard was seen as the ideal candidate to guide the team through a transfer embargo by bringing through homegrown talent.

    Whether or not Lampard was a success as Chelsea coach is a discussion for another time, but his faith in Mount was unquestionable, chucking him straight into the team on the first day of the 2019-20 season.

     

    The Blues suffered a rather harsh 4-0 defeat at Manchester United, but Mount didn't look out of his depth in the Premier League, playing four key passes over the course of the match.

    He never enjoyed a more productive Premier League game in terms of chances created in 2019-20, while he finished the season with 12 goal involvements (seven scored, five set up), a figure bettered by only Tammy Abraham (18), Willian (16) and Christian Pulisic (13) in the Chelsea squad.

    Similarly, Willian (76) was the only Chelsea player to lay on more key passes over 2019-20 than Mount's 52 and he appeared in more league games than any of his team-mates (37).

    But those points don't quite tell the whole story. To say he was consistent throughout the season would be a lie, as after the turn of the year there was a growing sense of frustration regarding his form. Between the start of November and the final day of the season, his three assists amounted to a couple of corner deliveries for Antonio Rudiger to head home, and a free-kick against Arsenal that Bernd Leno made a mess of. Mount's one open-play assist of 2019-20 came on the final day of the season against Wolves.

     

    Some felt Mount was being over-worked by Lampard, others put his issues down to being used in a variety of roles – one week he'd occupy a central midfield position, the next he could be deployed as a winger and then he might play as a No.10.

    The "teacher's pet" tag began to raise its head, with Lampard's almost incessant use of Mount leading to suggestions of preferential treatment. 

    A star of his own merit

    When Thomas Tuchel was hired as Lampard's replacement in January, there wouldn't have been too many particularly worried for Mount's future given he had been a fixture in the team.

    But when Mount was dropped for the German's first game in charge, Tuchel's decision certainly made people sit up and take note.

    While he explained it away as opting to go with experience, dropping Mount suggested for arguably the first time since his return from Derby that he had a fight on his hands.

    But it would be fair to say he's risen to the challenge.

    "I understood and wanted to get back into the team, so that motivation and that fire that I have inside me came out," Mount said at a news conference last month. "I really tried to push to get back into the team. It's been brilliant."

    Since then, he's become more productive almost across the board in the final third under Tuchel than he had been for Lampard in 2020-21.

     

    Seemingly one of the main contributing factors is his role. While Lampard used Mount in numerous positions, Tuchel has largely deployed him further up the pitch in an attempt to get him closer to the opposition's penalty area – activity maps show a significant change between the two coaches' usage of the 21-year-old.

    Not only is he involved in passing moves more often as a result, he's contributing to sequences that end in a shot with greater frequency as well. His 72 (7.8 per 90 minutes) during Tuchel's 12 Premier League matches is the second highest in the division since the German's appointment, while his 96 (5.6 per 90 minutes) involvements in Lampard's 18 top-flight games this term was the eighth most.

    The expected goals value from these sequences has increased too, going from 0.43 to 0.65 per 90 minutes, meaning Chelsea are creating greater quality chances with Mount further up the pitch.

    Furthermore, there's been a considerable improvement in his own productivity. While his chance creation record in the past may have been skewed by set-pieces, he's moved up the rankings in terms of open-play key passes per 90 minutes. With 1.5 each game, only 12 others have done better than Mount since Tuchel's arrival – beforehand, his 1.2 per 90 minutes had him 43rd in those rankings.

     

    While he may still be without a single open-play assist in 2020-21, it's clear to see that Mount's strong associative talents and ability to play tidily in busier areas of the pitch make him a real asset to Tuchel, who has acted quickly to shift the England international into a position that seemingly suits him better.

    Scoring has been an issue for them, with the likes of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz continuing to struggle, and this has undoubtedly impacted Mount as his expected assists from open play is 3.5 - with more clinical finishing he wouldn't still be sat on zero.

     

    Mount's form lately seems to suggest that once Chelsea begin to click in front of goal, he'll be key to much of their build-up.

    A homegrown beacon of hope

    Throughout Roman Abramovich's time as Chelsea owner, the club has often found itself in a sort of purgatory – while they've undoubtedly wanted success and a first-team full of homegrown talents, it's difficult to say they've truly struck a balance between the two.

    After all, since the start of the century, Chelsea products reaching 100 Premier League appearances for the club have been a rarity.

    John Terry, of course, leads the way, but beyond him it becomes a bit murky. John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic perhaps come closest to fitting the bill, though both did play senior football elsewhere before joining the club as teenagers.

    Granted, Mount remains a little way off yet as well having played 67 times in the top-flight for Chelsea, but he's quickly making up ground.

    Not too far behind him are Tammy Abraham (56), Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (both on 54), while Andreas Christensen – at Chelsea since 2013 – has featured 70 times.

    What's in store for their long-term futures at Chelsea remains to be seen – they are far less certain than Mount.

    But Mount especially shows that where there wasn't much hope for young talent coming through at Chelsea in the past, now there is for arguably the first time in the Abramovich era.

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