- Billy Gilmour produces timely midfield masterclass amid Chelsea injury crisis09:47 | 04/03/2020
Chelsea are suffering something of a crisis in the midfield due to injuries and suspensions and the young Scotsman delivered when it mattered.
Photo by Getty
It feels almost inconceivable that an 18-year-old could pull the strings at the heart of midfield against the European champions but that’s exactly what Stamford Bridge witnessed in the performance of Billy Gilmour during the FA Cup victory over Liverpool on Tuesday.
Gilmour’s presence on the teamsheet ahead of kick-off will have surprised those who haven’t been watching his development closely, but Frank Lampard justified it ahead of his side’s 2-0 win.
“Billy is playing because he deserves to play,” Lampard said as his headline team news was questioned by the BBC. Gilmour was promoted to Lampard’s squad during the winter break after getting the chance to train in front of the legendary midfielder-cum-coach.
The Scotland youngster stole the show to get his side to the last eight of the FA Cup. It was one of those games that will signpost his talent to the watching football world, producing the goods on the big stage against the team recently crowned the best on the planet.
Lampard knows talent when he sees it but the real credit for Gilmour’s emergence should go to Neil Bath, his scouts and those who did the deal to bring this generational talent down to England.
Chelsea made sure he came to the Cobham Training Academy and he has had a rapid ascension at the club, earning senior appearances in the league and cup.
However, even after starting against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup, this was his toughest test yet. That game gave him confidence – now this one gives him even more.
“It was a good match, I’ve been training very hard to get this chance,” Gilmour told the BBC after. “Today I stepped up and took my opportunity. Great game, great victory.”
“I need to keep pushing on, keep doing what I’m doing.”
Fabinho, Adam Lallana and Curtis Jones fought against him in midfield but Gilmour not only held his own, he won the battle.
They witnessed up close his incredible passing range, ability to move around the pitch and his defensive abilities. The latter shouldn’t be underestimated despite his small frame, which rarely limits his ability to mix it physically.
Gilmour regained possession more than any of his team-mates on the night and his late intervention in the first half – tracking back to dispossess Sadio Mane in the box – was vital, with Willian having earlier given the Blues the lead.
His performance in midfield was all the more important as Mateo Kovacic came off with a foot injury late in the first half after a collision with Mane.
The Croatia international has been Chelsea’s player of the season so far, and his loss would be hard felt at any time. Particularly now, as Lampard will sweat over his fitness having lost N’Golo Kante to injury along with Jorginho to suspension for three games in his midfield.
That injury saw Gilmour shift to the left of the midfield three from the middle and he handled the in-game change with ease.
Chelsea won their midfield battle and were worth their win on the night. Barkley’s display was almost as timely as Gilmour’s, with the pair now set to start all of their side’s next few games as injuries continue to pile up.
“Today he was brilliant, but it’s not a surprise to me [given] the way he trains every day,” Barkley told the BBC. “I saw him last season and he was quality in training. He showed that with the little chances he had this season, and today it was a top performance. Long may it continue.”
A left-footed, cross-field ball towards Pedro earned Barkley early applause and it only served to encourage the ex-Everton man. It was an important performance, with his manager having criticised him for being caught in two off-field incidents that were sold to major English newspapers.
He has also been inconsistent on the field, his showing against Bayern Munich in the Champions League last week seeing him complete only one pass in the opening 30 minutes.
Perhaps partly fuelled by the Merseyside rivalry through his Everton connection, he looked the player that everyone expected he would be when he broke through at Goodison Park. His goal, after a powerful run through midfield, capped off a fine display.
After that heavy defeat at home to the German champions, the FA Cup is likely Chelsea’s only chance of silverware this season and they weren’t favourites going into this match either.
Lampard’s season could still end with some glory and his squad are responding well to a deepening injury crisis. He now needs more of the same for the next three games against Everton, Aston Villa and Bayern.
Source – Goal.com
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