Conor Gallagher has it all and could face a tough call at the end of Crystal Palace loan | crystal palace

VSOnor Gallagher’s man of the match against Manchester City on Monday was another sign of the fantastic season he is enjoying at Crystal Palace. He ran 12.5 km in 90 minutes and said “I can’t feel my legs anymore”, but he will only get better.

The midfielder, on loan from Chelsea, has all the qualities you would want: he scores and creates goals, annoys opponents and has the energy to do so throughout the game, which makes him a good teammate and a very annoying opponent. In 15 of his 25 appearances this season, he has covered more ground than anyone else in a Palace shirt, providing the energy at the heart of midfield to lead them to a comfortable mid-table position.

I saw Gallagher last season at West Brom and thought he was struggling and maybe this was a wake up call for him. I didn’t think he had the speed or power for the elite then, so it’s great to see he’s improved his physical abilities. I don’t know how the change happened or if it’s just the natural development of a young player allowing his body to get used to the rigors of the game at this level, but the important thing is that it works for him.

Getting the right loan is imperative for players and their parent clubs to ensure it will be useful for development. A lot of effort and research goes into these issues because if an individual signs for a club with the wrong coach or the wrong style for them, the deal does not benefit anyone. Gallagher has proven to Swansea and Palace what can be done in the right hands. Parent clubs know the quality of their players – they just need to see if they can perform every week in the professional game.

Patrick Vieira has changed Palace this season, creating a more dynamic and attacking style with Gallagher at his heart. They have grown from the highest average age in the Premier League to a team of young and dynamic players capable, when the day comes, of matching the best England have to offer.

Palace have taken four points from Manchester City this season, with Gallagher scoring in the win at the Etihad. He’s already used to putting in great performances in key games against supposedly superior opposition, showing that nothing’s bothering him, and that’s a quality Chelsea will have noted. These are beautiful traits built on the platform of the desire to outrun those around her. I remember seeing Gallagher at Chelsea because his youth team trained on the pitch after the women’s team – he’s very memorable because his style of play (and hairstyle) has always been the same.

Conor Gallagher celebrates after scoring for Crystal Palace in October’s win at Manchester City. Photography: Phil Oldham//Shutterstock

Those in the stands can see what a player like Gallagher brings to the team because they’re all in action. Sometimes it’s hard to notice what a more subtle player offers, but Gallagher’s effort is unmistakable and it will always raise a crowd. Palace fans must be pretty upset they definitely won’t be able to keep him. He’s probably quadrupled in value since joining Selhurst Park thanks to his eight goals and three assists, meaning Palace will likely be priceless to buy him.

Chelsea will be very keen to find Gallagher because every club wants a player like him. It’s easy to see what he could offer Chelsea and – no disrespect to Palace – how he could improve further working alongside better players every day. Gallagher, however, won’t want his progress to be stifled by becoming a team player reduced to accepting minutes off the bench, especially with a World Cup at the end of the year.

There are plenty of cautionary tales for Gallagher at Stamford Bridge, where talented midfielders such as Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek struggled to find the right path in their journey through the hybrid loan system of Chelsea.

It would be interesting to see where he could fit into Chelsea’s starting XI. He’s definitely not in Jorginho’s mold and would offer a different style to Mateo Kovacic. He could be perfect alongside N’Golo Kanté in the center of the park, each able to make runs at the right time to bring consistent energy to the side.

N'Golo Kanté of Chelsea tries to fight his way past two Lille players.  Conor Gallagher could be a perfect midfield partner for him.
N’Golo Kanté of Chelsea tries to fight his way past two Lille players. Conor Gallagher could be a perfect midfield partner for him. Photography: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Gallagher made his England debut ahead of Chelsea, which seems odd, and other caps could arise after a well-deserved call-up on Thursday. Gareth Southgate will have Gallagher in his thoughts for his World Cup squad but he obviously doesn’t fit into the English system. There are a lot of players ahead of him; you can’t ignore what Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips did at the Euros, providing the stability and industry that Southgate craves in midfield.

Gallagher could operate in this role, but he should improve his tactical awareness. He likes to get ahead of the ball, which didn’t happen regularly at Euro 2020 for England midfielders. Alternatively, Gallagher could fit into one of the more advanced roles, but I’m not sure he’d oust Mason Mount, Phil Foden or Jack Grealish as a No.10 just yet.

The natural desire will ensure that Gallagher continues to improve. He will continue to make runs, create chances, score goals and put pressure on defenders in a game where pressing is becoming increasingly important. All great players, in addition to their qualities, have an exceptional consistency, which Gallagher will strive to bring to his game over the seasons. He just has to make sure his legs can keep up.

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