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Conor Gallagher is shining for Crystal Palace and England but Patrick Vieira believes he can get even better

Conor Gallagher’s outstanding form for Crystal Palace has propelled him to prominence but Patrick Vieira tells Sky Sports his best is yet to come; watch Crystal Palace vs Arsenal live on Sky Sports on Monday Night Football from 7pm; kick-off 8pm

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Conor Gallagher has scored eight goals and earned a call-up to the senior England squad in his loan season at Crystal Palace. Here's the best of his season so far...

Patrick Vieira knew Conor Gallagher was good. But not this good.

The 22-year-old's potential was clear when he arrived at Selhurst Park from Chelsea in July but even so, his season in south London - a season during which he has become a Crystal Palace talisman and senior England international - has exceeded expectations.

"He surprised me with his finishing, he surprised me with his energy, he surprised me with the way he gets into the box at the right time to score goals," Vieira says in conversation with Sky Sports.

Gallagher has scored eight of them so far - as many as he managed in his previous three loan spells combined - and registered more direct goal involvements (11) than any other Palace player.

Conor Gallagher has scored eight goals and registered three assists for Palace
Image: Conor Gallagher has scored eight goals and registered three assists for Palace

He has been their standout performer in the Premier League, putting them within reach of their highest-ever finish, and while he is ineligible to face parent club Chelsea in the upcoming FA Cup semi-final, he has been key to their progress on that front too.

Take his performance in last month's quarter-final.

Gallagher overpowered Everton in midfield that day and while he was not among Palace's scorers, his influence was apparent in two of their four goals. After releasing Michael Olise before the opener, he took the initial shot that allowed Will Hughes to add the fourth.

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It was typical of Gallagher that, even with 87 minutes gone and Palace three goals up, he still had the energy and desire to sprint from inside his own half to meet Odsonne Edouard's pass on the edge of Everton's box and force the save that fell to Hughes.

Image: Gallagher is hugely influential on the right of Crystal Palace's midfield three

Palace supporters adore Gallagher for his indefatigable work-rate as much as his quality, and Vieira, a perfect mentor for the youngster given his own pedigree in the position, feels the same way.

"He is a team player and this is what I really love about him," adds the Frenchman. "He sacrifices himself on the field for the team. I'm glad he gets praise because of the goals that he is scoring but everything he does is good for the team."

His performance in Crystal Palace's goalless draw with Manchester City, six days before that 4-0 win over Everton, provided even clearer evidence of Gallagher's appetite for sacrifice.

Vieira's side registered just 26 per cent of the possession that night, with Gallagher recording fewer touches (39) than in any other Premier League fixture this season, and yet he hustled and harried relentlessly, running over a kilometre further than any of his team-mates and making a huge contribution towards the result.

"I can't feel my legs," he told Sky Sports with a grin afterwards.

Gallagher covered 12.3km against City, the most by any Palace player all season, but such industrious performances are not unusual for him. In fact, he has surpassed the 12km mark on four separate occasions over the course of the campaign.

"The boss wants me to press," Gallagher added.

Indeed, in addition to everything he gives Palace in an attacking sense, Gallagher has also won possession more times than any of his team-mates in the middle third, while only Wilfried Zaha has won it more times in the final third.

Gallagher showed the same hunger out of possession on his first England start against Switzerland last Saturday, his all-round performance earning him the man-of-the-match award. "He's infectious, isn't he?" said Gareth Southgate afterwards. "I think he can set the tone for the rest of the team."

If there can be any criticism of Gallagher, it is that he sometimes tries to do too much, something which leaves Vieira clicking his fingers in search of the English word for canaliser - to channel.

"I think one of the areas where he can improve is in channelling his energy," says Vieira, who has previously likened Gallagher to his former Arsenal team-mate Ray Parlour but with the goal scoring ability of Chelsea legend Frank Lampard.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Jean-Philippe Mateta celebrates with teammate Conor Gallagher of Crystal Palace after scoring their team's first goal during the Premier League match between Watford and Crystal Palace at Vicarage Road on February 23, 2022 in Watford, England. (Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)
Image: Conor Gallagher has scored eight Premier League goals for Crystal Palace

"He has got so much strength, so much power, so much mobility, but it's about finding the right time to use his energy," he adds.

"Sometimes, I would say, he is making runs he shouldn't make, when he should keep his energy for the right moments."

That, though, presents a dilemma in itself and Vieira has been mindful not to stop Gallagher from playing his natural game.

"At the same time, you don't want to take those qualities away from him because of the options he gives you as a manager," says Vieira.

"He is unbelievable, and he is like that in life as well. He gives everything in every relationship with his team-mates and he plays in the same way as he is in his life."

Vieira believes Gallagher will learn to refine his game over time - "he will get that with experience," he adds - and while it is not yet clear what his future holds for him beyond this season, what is clear is that his loans up until now - with Charlton, Swansea and West Brom before Palace - have been hugely beneficial to his development.

Gallagher was named man of the match against Switzerland
Image: Gallagher was named man of the match against Switzerland

"For a young player at this age, with that talent, I strongly believe the loans he had helped him develop himself quicker," says Vieira.

"I strongly believe that if he hadn't had those loans, he wouldn't be the player he is now.

"For young players like him, to go to the next level, you need to play games. Everywhere he went, he did that."

He has done it at Palace too. Gallagher's performances have caused some Chelsea supporters to question the decision to send him on loan but only Tyrick Mitchell and Marc Guehi have played more Premier League minutes for Palace this season and his England breakthrough is a testament to the progress he has made.

His rise holds lessons for young players in the importance of experience and exposure. Crystal Palace may not be able to enjoy him for much longer as he nears the end of his loan spell. But Gallagher's sheer relentlessness has already earned a place in the hearts of their supporters - and their manager.

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