Gareth Southgate is confident Mason Mount can be equally impactful in a deeper midfield role for England alongside his best friend Declan Rice despite him not featuring there for Chelsea.
Mount has played as a joint-six and a number eight for the national side in recent games and Southgate is likely to use the 22-year-old in the former position at some point in tomorrow’s World Cup qualifier away to Albania or Wednesday’s visit of Poland to Wembley.
Yet Thomas Tuchel has solely used the academy graduate in more attack-minded positions – including at No.10 and on the wing. His only start further back this season came in the defeat away to Leicester in January when Frank Lampard was still in charge.
Chelsea have plenty of options in central midfield with N’Golo Kante’s fine form and Jorginho being fixed to a holding position, while the incumbent head coach considering Mount’s attacking ability a far greater asset.
Asked about the balance and cohesion of possibly using Mount as a pair with West Ham’s Rice, Southgate was coy over where he thinks Mount is best suited for his team but is confident that he can be as effective when sitting back, especially should England end up using a 3-4-2-1 system against quality opponents.
“Mason doesn’t play in the deeper position at his club but it’s possible for him,” he said before the team flies to Tirana. “He’s very intelligent and can play as six, an eight, or a 10. He can adjust and adapt as required and the balance of those two is good.
“But equally James Ward-Prowse the other night was good and Kalvin Phillips has been good. It’s an area where we’re starting to get options. We have Jude as well. Like almost every position on the pitch, a lot of competition for places.”
Mount has stressed that he does not mind playing in any role, viewing his versatility as a product of the modern game. “I think my versatility is something that’s positive to me,” he said on Wednesday. “I don’t mind playing a bit deeper or further up. I don’t mind. That’s something positive for me. I just need to work hard and do well in different positions.”
Southgate was also asked about the importance of having a defence comprised of players familiar with each other at club level, specifically the possibility of forming a back three or four from both Manchester clubs.
Yet with Ben Chilwell and Reece James the starting full backs in the rout of San Marino on Thursday night, it is a logic that can easily be applied to Chelsea.
“That cohesion between units on the field is always helpful,” Southgate added. “We had partnerships like that at the World Cup. When there’s not a long time to work together as a team those edges can be decisive but that doesn’t mean players not at those clubs aren’t under serious consideration.
“The other night we saw two right backs [James and Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier] playing really well and having excellent seasons in their position. There’s competition through the squad, it’s there in every position. We’re without seven or eight players through injury in this camp. If you don’t have a strong squad you’re in trouble.”