“I am not surprised the national coach loves him because I loved him from day one,” Thomas Tuchel said on Conor Gallagher back in November of last year. “Humble, nice, smile on his face and all the time ready to give everything, wants to learn and to improve.
“As a team-mate, I would have loved to play with him. It is a pleasure to know him; I am super happy that it has worked out so well. He needs to keep his feet on the ground.”
It was clear from those comments made by Tuchel, over six months ago now, that Gallagher would at least be considered by the Chelsea head coach in his plans for next season. After a recent meeting between the head coach and the midfielder, Tuchel assured Gallagher he would be an important player in his side next term, as football.london reported on Tuesday afternoon.
Having previously impressed on loan at the likes of Charlton Athletic, Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion, it was a spell at Crystal Palace that really made Gallagher stand out. Patrick Vieira had a huge influence on the Chelsea midfielder, it seems, with the Eagles boss consistently being praised for his inspiration.
“I feel like the gaffer knows how to get the best out of me,” Gallagher said to Crystal Palace’s official website after being named Young Player of the Year at the London Football Awards back in March. “He knows how he wants to play and the best way I can show what I can do.
“He told me this at the start of the season and has given me the confidence throughout the season by playing me as much as he has and having trust in me. Receiving this award, he’s a big part of it. He’s been amazing to work under.”
Vieira really did get the best out of Gallagher and that was made evident by his eight-goal return over the course of the season at Selhurst Park. It’s now Tuchel’s job to try and squeeze even more out of the England international.
How Gallagher will fit in
Gallagher is capable of playing in numerous roles across the midfield. While in possession in attacking areas, the 22-year-old’s ability to stay calm is what sets him apart from others.
He was able to show that on multiple occasions while on loan at Palace. Saying this, Gallagher did somewhat tail off towards the end of the season, but the impression he gave down in south London was not forgotten.
The Chelsea man’s energy was something that particularly caught the eye at the Eagles. He was everywhere in some games. “It is difficult to find in the squad a player with Conor’s type of energy,” Vieira said in April.
Against Manchester City in April, where Palace picked up an unexpected point, Gallagher covered 12.3km over the 90 minutes, as per Sky Sports, more than anyone else in his side. He said after the game to Sky Sports: “I can’t feel my legs, every one of the boys worked so hard, we gave everything and I am proud of the team. I’m struggling to talk and my legs have gone.”
During his time on loan at Crystal Palace, he was often used in the number 10 position, with Vieira sometimes opting with a 4-2-3-1 formation. However, he was also used as the attacking of the three midfielders in a 4-3-3.
Chelsea, meanwhile, tend to operate the 3-4-3/3-4-2-1 system under Tuchel. Playing in a double pivot is something Gallagher didn’t really do during his time on loan at Palace. He may be required to do next season, though, under Tuchel.
Mateo Kovacic seemed to be Tuchel’s go-to midfielder in the 2021/22 campaign, whenever the Croatian was fit. As many Chelsea supporters see it now, the midfield should perhaps be built around Kovacic and anyone coming in, in this case coming back, should fit in alongside the former Real Madrid man.
N’Golo Kante struggled massively with injuries last term. The Frenchman, even when he was fit, was unable to have as big of an impact than he did in previous seasons for Chelsea.
Jorginho looks as if he could be on his way out of the door at Stamford Bridge. The Italian is supposedly a target for Juventus, who want to take advantage of his contractual situation, with just over 12 months left to run on his deal.
Ross Barkley, likewise, has a year remaining on his contract and could be offloaded, while Saul Niguez is expected to return to parent club Atletico Madrid after a largely unsuccessful loan spell in west London. Gallagher will be needed plenty next season. There’s no doubt about it.
A deal for Declan Rice still looks some way off, despite Chelsea having a long-term interest in their former academy player. West Ham United are demanding around £150million for the England international, something the Blues will be extremely reluctant to pay.
Aurelien Tchouameni looks to be on his way to Real Madrid, despite Chelsea holding a keen interest in the Frenchman. Ibrahim Sangare is a name that’s been touted plenty, but there’s nothing close yet regarding a move for the PSV Eindhoven midfielder.
Even if Gallagher does stay, it could be that Chelsea do continue to scour the transfer market for another midfield option. Right now, though, the targets the Blues have listed in midfield seem to be either too expensive or unattainable.