The Scottish Fabregas: Billy Gilmour looks the real deal for Chelsea
The pool of wonderkids in European football continues to grow. We’ve seen exactly what Jadon Sancho is capable for Borussia Dortmund and England, what Phil Foden has the potential to achieve in the game with Manchester City, and the frightening talents of Erling Braut Haaland - the Norwegian teenager who has lit up the Champions League with both Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund this season.
Chelsea’s 18-year-old midfielder Billy Gilmour can now be added to that list.
The Scotland under-21 international, who was the star of the show as the Blues defeated Liverpool 2-0 in the FA Cup fifth round on Tuesday night, has slowly started to break into the first-team fold at Stamford Bridge under the watchful eye of Frank Lampard this term.
Though he has made just six appearances for the west Londoners in all competitions this time out (twice in the PL, twice in the EFL Cup and twice in the FA Cup), Gilmour has impressed each time he has been called upon, with his performance against Liverpool notably exceptional.
Comparisons have already been drawn between the 18-year-old and former Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard is Gilmour’s idol, and a player who he has always watched closely so he can imitate his technique and style of play to perfection - it only takes a quick glance at one of the many highlight reels dedicated to the youngster on YouTube to see that he is doing a brilliant job of it.
Against Liverpool, Gilmour was faced with a task which appeared gargantuan on the face of it. The Reds may have started to show signs of faltering in recent weeks - losing to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League before scraping past West Ham in the Premier League and then losing 3-0 to Watford last weekend - but they still posed a huge threat under the bright lights at Stamford Bridge.
Having seen their chances of surpassing Arsenal’s 49-game unbeaten run in the Premier League decimated at Vicarage Road, there was a feeling that Jurgen Klopp’s side would bounce back in emphatic style against Chelsea, hungry to right the wrongdoings of Saturday’s performance and determined to go the distance in the FA Cup to silence the sceptics and naysayers.
Another lifeless performance from the Reds ensued, though, and a heavily-changed Liverpool side were completely bullied by Frank Lampard’s spirited Chelsea side, beaten 2-0 by the (much) better side on the night. Gilmour’s task at hand may have looked colossal prior to kick-off, but within a matter of minutes it became apparent that the fresh-faced Scot was up to it.
It is one of football’s most impossible tasks: controlling the tempo of a game. Now add the best team in world football as your opponent and suddenly, it becomes even harder. It was executed to perfection by Gilmour last night, however, with the help of another of Chelsea’s seldom-used players - Ross Barkley - by his side, dictating the play in a more attack-minded sense in the heart of midfield.
Liverpool were poor last night by their usually high standards but Chelsea, as a unit, were superb, man for man. Gilmour may not have done anything which would typically be labelled as ‘stand out’ by a studio pundit wearing a questionable shirt on Match of the Day (minus his jaw-dropping nut-meg on Fabinho and subsequent through ball to Pedro in the second-half), but anyone who understands football - and the stark importance of keeping possession - would have noticed what a mature performance he put in on Tuesday evening.
Lampard had huge praise for Gilmour following his display against the Reds, too. The 41-year-old is facing somewhat of an injury crisis at the moment, with Mateo Kovacic and Willian both sustaining achilles injuries against Liverpool which sees the pair join Tammy Abraham, Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and N’Golo Kante in the treatment room.
Indeed, because of this Gilmour’s chances of breaking into the first-team on a regular basis have been handed a huge boost, with it now abundantly clear that he is capable of making the step-up.
"What an incredible performance for a young player," Lampard said after the game.
"He was a calm head in that first five or 10 minutes. He's a throwback of a midfielder.
"Can you put your foot in? Yes. Can you make angles to play the passes? Yes. He's only slight in stature but he's huge in personality. He deserves people to talk about him after a performance like that."
Comments like that from such an influential figure do not come easily.
While Chelsea’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League quarter-finals look dead in the water following a 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich last week, they are still in with a huge chance of obtaining silverware this term in the form of the FA Cup.
Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal may all still remain in the competition but you would fancy the Blues to beat the latter three of those four mentioned clubs on their day, while it is unlikely that City will fully focus on their exploits in the FA Cup due to their commitments in Europe, making them beatable with another top-level performance.
Chelsea are currently 5/1 to win the FA Cup this season with bet365 and, after watching them against Liverpool - led by the most unlikeliest of candidates in Billy Gilmour, or simply the “Scottish Fabregas” - you’d be hard-pressed to look past them winning Frank Lampard his first piece of silverware, at the very first time of asking.