Conor Gallagher has been named Crystal Palace Fans’ Player of the Year in 2021. Considering he only joined the Eagles on loan in August, it’s fair to say he has been a roaring success during the Chelsea man’s stay so far at Selhurst Park.
I must emphasise that he is indeed a Chelsea man.
This award does wonders for his case to return to the Blues next summer. It may be harsh on Crystal Palace, who will surely seek to sign him on loan or permanently next summer, but it feeds into the narrative that Gallagher deserves a run at first-team football at his parent club. There are several reasons as to why this is but here are three key ones.
He has not just won over Crystal Palace fans, he’s won over football fans across England.
Not only has Gallagher shown the Eagles fans exactly what he is capable of but he has also sent a message to all Premier League clubs of his ability at this level. His England call-up was the cherry on the icing following two productive loan spells which have confirmed his competence at top-flight level.
Previously on loan at West Brom, Gallagher has always been a fan favourite. His high energy and creativity from midfield did not go unnoticed during his time with the Baggies. Fans often sang high praises of him, so it is little surprise that the Crystal Palace fans warmed to him instantly.
Despite being a Crystal Palace player for just five months, Gallagher took home a 57 per cent share of the vote to finish in first place for Reach’s Fans’ Club Footballer of the Year award. It only serves to underline what an impact he has had in just four months under Patrick Vieira at Palace and looks ready for the next step in his career.
Jose Mourinho wants Ruben Loftus-Cheek in Italy
It would appear Jose Mourinho has some unfinished business at Stamford Bridge. He rarely delved into the army of talent available to him from the Cobham academy during his two tenures at Chelsea so the move for Tammy Abraham last summer came as a surprise. And links Ruben Loftus-Cheek ahead of the January transfer window suggest he could be ready to raid the Blues again for a midfielder who has not been able to pin down a regular first-team role under Tuchel.
And that may lead to Chelsea having to sacrifice one of their more adaptable and versatile midfielders in January or in the summer if a deal in the immediate term cannot be agreed.
But we have the perfect replacement in Conor Gallagher. The initial problem with recalling Gallagher was the everlasting congestion in midfield. Chelsea currently have six options to pick from in the centre of midfield and it would have been unfair to force Gallagher to compete with them all.
In truth though, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic probably have a couple more seasons at the Bridge left in them, and N’Golo Kante’s recent fitness record has caused understandable concern. The burden on him has been too great and finding another option is key.
This season has shown us that having a progressive ‘8’ next to Jorginho could work, but we would need someone closer to a Kovacic than a Loftus-Cheek. That is where Gallagher comes into the equation.
He has developed into a near-complete midfielder this season and that alone gives him a straight pass into the Chelsea starting XI. He is able to progress the ball as well as Loftus-Cheek and is arguably a better finisher. On top of this, Gallagher has a keen eye for danger. His recovery speed and willingness to intercept and tackle would augur well for someone like Jorginho. He’s the best of both worlds.
Lastly, Let’s give Mason Mount a break shall we?
When we speak of high-energy players in Chelsea’s attack, Mason Mount is the first name that springs to mind. It would be preferable if we didn’t run the young Englishman into the ground for another season. He has been one of Chelsea’s most effective players in the last three years and the Blues can be thankful for his durability, as there is currently no suitable replacement for him in the squad.
With Thomas Tuchel’s man-management and knack for alternating players in the attack, Gallagher can be used as someone to fill in for Mount – and a fitting alternative too.
Chelsea fans have complained of the consistency of other attackers such as Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic and not sharing the same desire to press as Mason Mount does. The complaints could finally be put to bed by bringing Gallagher into the first-team fold.
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This does not limit Gallagher in his role in midfield. It could simply allow for healthy rotation within the squad through both the midfield and attack.
In matches where both players are selected and Mount is not at his maximum level, Gallagher will be there to maintain the momentum from higher up the pitch in midfield. The more players Chelsea can field in those areas, the more problems they will cause the opposition.
Chelsea must do everything in their powers to convince him of his first-team pathway at Stamford Bridge. So much could change by the time his contract runs out in 2025 and no gambles can be taken.
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