After picking up a knee injury in the 3-2 victory over Crystal Palace back in July, Billy Gilmour made his long-awaited return to action as he was brought on for the final ten minutes of last Wednesday’s brilliant 4-0 win in Seville.
Despite only emerging into the first team at the beginning of the calendar year, he has already become a fan favourite and a player tipped to be a huge part of Chelsea’s future. This summer saw plenty of new arrivals but with a lack of departures leaving Frank Lampard with a very large squad, what role can Billy Gilmour play this season?
Usually, a large squad would likely cause many problems for a manager as they bid to keep all their players happy. However, given the current circumstances, clubs are playing every three days meaning every single player becomes important. Frank Lampard has already shown that despite having a vast array of talent to choose from, he will be leaning on every member of his squad. Stats show that he has used more players than any other manager in the league so far this season, and now with the return to fitness of Billy Gilmour, he has another player to count on, something that Lampard is ‘really excited’ by.
His breakthrough season came in Lampard’s first as manager as he established himself as an important first team player. Most Chelsea fans knew just how talented he was from watching the youth teams and his cameos in cup games, but it was his man of the match performance in the FA Cup game at home to Liverpool in March which really propelled him into the eyes of the nation as his dominant display in midfield made people sit up and take notice, none more so than the notoriously hard to please Roy Keane.
Speaking before the Everton match in March, Keane said, ‘He was fantastic.’
‘As the game started I literally got out of my seat, which I very rarely do, and I thought, ‘who is this kid?
‘There are certain traits you want from a midfielder, quality on the ball, football intelligence, composure,’ he added.
‘He had everything, it was one of the best performances I have seen in a long, long time.’
That was some very high praise indeed from the former Manchester United captain and deservedly so. He backed up Keane’s comments with another man of the match performance in that game against Everton as he made his full Premier League debut.
Lockdown meant Gilmour’s development was halted but on football’s return he featured regularly for Frank Lampard until he
picked up that knee injury which has kept him out until now.
It remains to be seen where his best position is in the long term, but it is his ability to play in multiple positions across the midfield which makes him a valuable asset for Frank Lampard. The majority of his impressive performances last season came in a deeper position, however, his attributes suggest he may well be more suited to an advanced role. His tenacity in the midfield as well as the ability to receive the ball on the turn then pass between the lines makes him an ideal fit in the number 8 position for the way Lampard wants his side to play. He has all the raw materials needed to become one of the best midfielders in the world, and that isn’t an exaggeration. He can spray a pass, drive with the ball, break up play, and cover every blade of grass. Obviously, at 19, he is nowhere near the finished article, but he will improve with every game he plays. Some say his talents will be wasted in a deep-lying position, with him needing to play further forward to maximise his potential, but his versatility is a quality that will prove very useful to Lampard in the upcoming months. It will be difficult to nail him down to one position, but what is certain is that wherever he is played he will give his all and perform to a very high standard. His return provides a timely boost, especially ahead of a busy winter schedule.
One concern is whether he will get the regular minutes he needs for his development. He has just come back from a serious injury and is in desperate need of a constant run of matches to get his fitness and form back. Upon his return, he was eased back in with appearances for the development teams before going away with the Scotland U21’s but his trip was cut short by a harsh sending off.
With a congested run of fixtures coming up, however, he is assured to get some game time. In the deeper position, N’Golo Kante is excelling as he has returned to full fitness and is back to his best. It will be virtually impossible to displace him at the moment so perhaps further forward is where Lampard will be looking to offer him opportunities. The departures of both Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek surprised many, as it left Lampard with just Mount, Havertz, and Kovacic as options in that attacking role. It was a risk to let both go without signing another replacement, but that is a testament to how highly Gilmour is rated and the faith that has been placed in the Scot.
As with Chelsea and young players, the word ‘loan’ is always mentioned and it may well be something Gilmour needs to get regular playing time. He has been linked with some top clubs including the likes of Napoli in recent weeks but there is no doubt that Lampard sees him as a huge and vital member of his squad. The youngster isn’t dubbed ‘the Scottish Iniesta’ for no reason, and Frank Lampard will make sure he gives him the minutes he deserves, starting with the Champions League fixture against Krasnodar on Tuesday night. With nothing on the line, it is the perfect chance to give him 90 minutes of football and for him to show why he will be a key player this season. Once we get into the business end of the season, our aspirations of a title challenge will rest on Lampard’s ability to fully utilise his squad, and Gilmour will be hoping to give him plenty of selection headaches over the next few months.
Written by Angelia @cfcangelia
Edited by Jai Mcintosh @jjmcintosh5