• Jack Jennings

IS CONOR GALLAGHER READY FOR A CHELSEA CHANCE?


After several loan spells away from the club, has Conor Gallagher forced his way into Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel's plans this season?


Young, gifted and blonde


A cultured midfielder with an impressive work rate who shows great composure in both boxes, naturally a central midfielder Gallagher can also adapt to the number 10 role, as he displayed numerous times last season at Crystal Palace.


It was at Crystal Palace under Patrick Vieira last season where the box-to-box midfielder caught the eye of many, with some scintillating performances earning him the club's player of the year award, but it was at Charlton Athletic where the young midfielder made his debut in senior football.


The former Addicks manager Lee Bowyer would take the fresh-faced Chelsea under-23 midfielder to South-East London, after the club had recently been promoted to the Championship in 2019.


Immediately slotting into the starting XI, Gallagher would score on his full senior debut in a 3-1 win over Stoke City in front of the Valley crowd, Gallagher would go on to score another two more goals in August earning him the EFL player of the month.


During Gallagher's time at Charlton, his former boss, Bowyer said, “For us, it was a bit of a gamble; he had never been on loan anywhere before and is only 19 so he’s still learning the game. But he’s hit the ground running".


“Whatever you tell him he does and I just keep encouraging him to get in the box, and things are falling for him at the moment.


“His willingness and work rate is unreal, so he’s fitted in really well.

“He’s still learning though – he needs to learn – but he’s been a great addition for us.”


Attracting attention with his goal scoring feats and overall displays saw parent club Chelsea cut short Gallagher's loan spell at Charlton in January, and immediately sent him on loan to play-off chasing Swansea City for the remainder of the season.


During 2019-20, Gallagher would total 45 league outings in the Championship for both Charlton and Swansea, scoring six goals in the process (All for Charlton) whilst gaining some invaluable first-team experience.


The following season, the England midfielder would get his chance this time in the Premier League, when West Bromwich Albion was his next temporary port of call. Featuring 30 times for the Baggies and scoring twice in the process. Gallagher's first top-flight goal came in the 1-0 win over Sheffield United. A season that ended in relegation for West Brom but a vital experience on a personal level for the on-loan Chelsea man.


2021-22 brought more Premier League first-team action and under the guidance of midfield legend Patrick Vieira in a new-look Crystal Palace side.


With the valued experience of the previous seasons, Gallagher's box-to-box style of play and the freedom to be a more creative player, saw the Epsom-born player reach new heights and by December he had six goals and three assists for Crystal Palace, the most of any Premier League player aged 21 or under at that point.


He would finish his fine season at Selhurst Park with eight goals and three assists, earning the club's player of the year award whilst also catching the eye of England manager Gareth Southgate, making his four Lions debut against San Marino in November.


Pre-Season


The 22-year-old has so far featured in all three matches of Chelsea's pre-season tour of America, and will be keen to impress his manager against Udinese in the London club's final warm-up fixture this weekend, before their season opener away to Everton on the 6th of August.


His manager Thomas Tuchel has high praise for the 22-year-old, Tuchel said 'He can be a big asset for us. Conor trains at a really high level. You can clearly see it was the right decision to let him go on loan. He made a huge step in his development at Palace and became an England player.'


How Does Gallagher Fit In At Chelsea?


Despite Gallagher's fine form last season and promising pre-season the young midfielder has strong competition at the club.


Under Tuchel last season Chelsea heavily used a 3-4-2-1 lineup, with Jorginho partnering either Mateo Kovacic or when fit N'Golo Kante in the centre of midfield.


Gallagher can play either in the centre of the park or on the right of a three-man midfield and will boost Chelsea's creative options whilst providing a goal threat from midfield, outscoring the trio of Kovacic, Jorginho, and Pulisic last season.


Gallagher will also have a head start on fellow compatriot and midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek who missed out on the club's tour of America due to US entry laws.


Loftus-Cheek who also spent time on loan at Crystal Palace managed 24 appearances in the league last season for Chelsea, with Gallagher expected to be above the pecking order at this current time.


Despite his attacking prowess and quality on the ball, Gallagher does have a poor discipline record, receiving 21 bookings over the past two seasons, an area that the young midfielder will need to work on as he matures his game.


Gallagher will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of his England teammates in making the progression from youth academy to the first team at Chelsea. The quintet of Reece James, Trevoh Chalobah, Loftus-Cheek, Mason Mount, and Callum Hudson-Odoi have all made the jump into the first team, and Gallagher will be looking to make it the club's sixth current England International that came from the academy this season.


Since winning the under-17 World Cup with England nearly five years ago, Gallagher has risen through the England ranks featuring in every age group which now includes the senior side. Making four appearances under Gareth Southgate, Gallagher has big aspirations to be selected at this winter's World Cup in Qatar, but the midfielder will know only regular first-team action can turn that dream into a reality this season.


Touted as a future England star and often compared to club legend Frank Lampard, the question is when not if Gallagher will break into the first team at Chelsea.