Frank Lampard has called on Mason Mount to put his close friendship with Declan Rice to one side and concentrate on “beating him in every battle” when Chelsea visit West Ham on Wednesday night.
Lampard’s playing career started at West Ham and the Chelsea manager says the abuse he received when he returned in a Chelsea shirt “definitely pushed me on”, a motivational effect similar to the one he got from coming up against particularly familiar players.
“I think it spurs you on more, if you have a personal relationship either way – whether you’re best friends or don’t really like each other,” Lampard said. “But you can either have the best of games in that sort of circumstance or you can become overly focused on that relationship and have a not-so-good game.
“There is only one thing I will ask of Mason … he texts him the night before the game, he smiles at him in the tunnel or whatever it is, but if and when they go up against each other he has try to beat him in every individual battle that he possibly can. And sensing Declan Rice’s character they’ll be like-minded on that one.”
Mount was one of two players taken off at half-time in Chelsea’s last game, at Leicester on Sunday, and Ross Barkley, one of the players brought on, scored the only goal in a fifth successive win. But the 21-year-old Mount has started all but four of Chelsea’s 32 league matches and, having stood out in recent victories against Aston Villa and Manchester City, his place seems assured.
“Against Villa he was incredibly lively with the ball and gave us a lot of options going forward, then the work ethic and quality he showed against Manchester City was incredible, so he had two big performances in a week,” Lampard said. “It wasn’t a bad performance against Leicester, more in line with the team. I rely on Mason a lot; I did at Derby and do at Chelsea, and that decision doesn’t affect my thinking either for West Ham or going forward.”
West Ham’s manager, David Moyes, has said he wants to build a team around Rice after Aaron Cresswell suggested his teammate would reach “another level” if he joined a big club.
Chelsea are considering trying to sign Rice but Moyes sees the England international as a future West Ham captain and believes the 21-year-old has a long way to go before he is capable of living up to Cresswell’s prediction.
“If you think of the great players that have been at West Ham over the last 125 years, some stunning players,” Moyes said, “Declan Rice is not anywhere close to that level yet, so Declan has got a lot of improvement to do to meet that level but he is a very, very good player.
“I have had the chance to see a lot of players at the top level, their qualities. Declan has many, many of them. My idea is to build West Ham around Declan Rice. I see Declan Rice as a future captain. For many reasons I am looking forward to working with Declan and unless I am told different or things change he is a very big part of the club to me.”
West Ham could be without Sébastien Haller again but Moyes sounded doubtful about asking Albian Ajeti to replace the striker, who was missed in the 2-0 defeats by Wolves and Tottenham. Ajeti is yet to score since his £8m move from Basel last summer and has not featured since starting when West Ham, who are out of the bottom three on goal difference, lost against West Brom in the FA Cup in January.
“I think he had a chance against Newport [in the Carabao Cup],” Moyes said. “I only came in January and I didn’t get a chance to see much. I played him in the West Brom game. You and me have probably seen the same amount. Obviously I see more of him in training. But you’ve had as much chance to watch him as I have in those games.”