It feels nearly unimaginable that an 18-year-old ought to pull the strings at the heart of midfield in opposition to the European champions but that’s exactly what Stamford Bridge witnessed in the overall 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 have not been observing his improvement closely, however Frank Lampard justified it beforehand of his side’s 2-0 win.
“Billy is playing due to the fact he deserves to play,” Lampard said as his headline team news was questioned by the BBC. Gilmour was promoted to Lampard’s squad at some point of the winter break after getting the chance to train in front of the legendary midfielder-cum-coach.
The Scotland teen stole the exhibit to get his side to the closing eight of the FA Cup. It was one of those games that will signpost his Genius to the observing soccer world, producing the goods on the large stage in opposition to the team lately crowned the best on the planet.
Lampard is aware of Genius when he sees it however the actual savings for Gilmour’s emergence must go to Neil Bath, his scouts and those who did the deal to carry this generational Genius down to England.
At 15 years old, Gilmour was already recognised to Barcelona , Bayern Munich and Manchester United as the fantastic younger participant for Rangers and Scotland.
Chelsea made certain he got here to the Cobham Training Academy and he has had a fast ascension at the club, earning senior appearances in the league and cup.
However, even after starting towards Manchester United in the Carabao Cup , this was his hardest test yet. That game gave him self assurance – now this one gives him even more.
“It was a proper match, I’ve been training very hard to get this chance,” Gilmour told the BBC after. “Today I stepped up and took my opportuneity. Great game, tremendous victory.
“I want to keep pushing on, keep doing what I’m doing.”
Fabinho, Adam Lallana and Curtis Jones fought in opposition to 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 not often limits his potential to combine 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 extra essential 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 misplaced N’Golo Kante to injury alongside with Jorginho to suspension for three games in his midfield.
That injury saw Gilmour shift to the left of the midfield three from the center and he dealt with the in-game change with ease.
Chelsea won their midfield conflict and were worth their win on the night. Ross Barkley’s show was almost as timely as Gilmour’s, with the pair now set to start all of their side’s next few games as injuries proceed to pile up.
“Today he was brilliant, however it’s no longer a shock to me [given] the way he trains each day,” Barkley, who scored the second goal, told the BBC of Gilmour. “I saw him last season and he was satisfactory in training.
He confirmed 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 closer to Pedro earned Barkley early applause and it only served to inspire the ex- Everton man. It was an essential performance, with his manager having criticised him for being caught in two off-field incidents that were sold to major English newspapers.
He has additionally 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 using the Merseyside rivalry through his Everton connection, he seemed the player that absolutely everyone anticipated he would be when he broke through at Goodison Park. His goal, after a powerful run thru midfield, capped off a first-class display.
After that heavy defeat at home to the German champions, the FA Cup is possibly Chelsea’s only chance of silverware this season and they weren’t favourites going into this match either.
Lampard’s season could still cease with some glory and his squad are responding nicely to a deepening injury crisis. He now needs extra of the same for the next three games towards Everton, Aston Villa and Bayern.