Gallagher is on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea - will Thomas Tuchel recall him? Midfielder's scoring, creating, defensive and running stats analysed; follow Crystal Palace vs Southampton on Wednesday with our live blog and watch free match highlights after full-time
Wednesday 15 December 2021 08:16, UK
Conor Gallagher is having the season of his life at Crystal Palace. Having joined Chelsea at eight years old, the 21-year-old is now thriving during his fourth loan spell away from Stamford Bridge. We take a look at how, why and where he excels...
The youngster has grown in stature and reputation as the campaign has progressed, initially culminating in an inaugural senior call-up to Gareth Southgate's England squad and earning his debut against San Marino in mid-November.
But the hard-working midfielder failed to slow at that juncture and has received a growing number of plaudits from his performances since, arguably topped by his match-winning double against Everton at the weekend.
His second goal came from a curling, long-range screamer in second-half stoppage time after shuffling seasoned striker Christian Benteke out of the way to take the shot - just to add exuberant confidence to his bag of talents.
Gallagher has now scored six league goals and notched another three assists - leading the way at Palace in both metrics with a combined tally of nine goal involvements from just 15 starts. Bear in mind, Palace have scored only 22 goals.
Speaking after his man-of-the-match performance on Sunday, Gallagher said: "The last one, that feeling is incredible. I won the ball back, Christian [Benteke] was telling me to leave it but there was no chance I was leaving it.
"I love it [at Crystal Palace]. Hearing them sing my name is a great feeling for me and gives me confidence which is amazing for a player. Hopefully I can continue to impress them. I always give my all and I try to affect the game as much as I can."
As a true measure of his current form, the youngster became only the second player from a club outside of the current top three teams to lead the Power Rankings form chart this season - a ranking formula which awards points to players for matchday stats over the past five games, using a sliding scale.
Sky Sports' Adam Smith speaking on the Essential Football Podcast:
"He really stands out as the modern midfielder. I think a lot of managers would love to have him. If you just look at the stats, he ranks second at Palace for tackles - as a midfielder - and wins more possession in the middle third than any other player.
"On top of that, you saw how he nudged Benteke out of the way and said 'I'm having this' [to score]. At 21 years old, to be doing that and executing it like that.
"His all-round game is excellent: his work-rate, he's run further than any other player at the club as well.
"He's a workhorse, he can score, more assists and chances created than anyone else at Palace. Across the board, he stands out and looks like a really promising prospect, for England, too."
The radar graphic below is perhaps the clearest indication of just how impressive Gallagher has been this season. When matched up against all central midfielders in Europe's top five leagues, the Chelsea loanee ranks among the elite for goals, assists, creating chances, third-third passes shots and winning duels. A true all-rounder.
Unsurprisingly, the 21-year-old leads the way at Palace across all key attacking metrics - in addition to ranking top for distance covered and second for tackles.
His finish to seal three points was his second goal from outside the box in his Premier League career and reveals yet another string to the England international's bow, but the midfielder's greatest threat comes from arriving with perfect timing in the penalty box to latch onto crosses.
In addition, most of the chances he creates are struck on target, suggesting he carves clear paths to goal - with many key passes fired from long passes or corners.
The graphic below shows where Gallagher typically operates on the ball, with the majority of his passes being made down his favoured right channel of midfield but with frequent forays into central areas and into the opposition box.
Meanwhile, his passing direction sonar reveals a progressive style, with his accuracy lowered only by the fact that he often attempts more ambitious, long passes.
As if the goals and creation were not enough, Gallagher also provides considerable midfield mettle - ranking top at Palace for recoveries in the middle third and comparable with defenders across other defensive metrics all over the pitch - frequently snuffing out danger in central areas deep inside his own half.
All that box-to-box coverage equates to club-topping numbers for distance covered - clocking 160.6km to date. In fact, that equates to nearly four marathons and ranks 11th highest out of all Premier League players this season - while only Tyrick Mitchell and Wilfried Zaha have registered more sprints at Palace this term.
Sky Sports' Charlotte Marsh from Selhurst Park:
"With the new year just a few weeks away, Conor Gallagher can look back on a breakout 2021.
"His summer loan move to Crystal Palace has continued to bring out the best of the midfielder. Those who have followed his career at Chelsea or in temporary spells at Charlton Athletic, Swansea and then West Brom on loan will not be overly surprised.
"The 21-year-old has shined in most games for Palace, but he was the standout star against Everton. There are always those players who receive the biggest cheers when the teamsheet is read out - at the moment, Wilfried Zaha and Gallagher draw the biggest reactions.
"Gallagher's two goals were simply sensational. His first was an emphatic finish from Jordan Ayew's squared cross. The second was a goal of the season contender as he rifled home from the top of the area in the 93rd minute to seal a deserved win for Crystal Palace.
"He topped the charts in almost every stats category too - shots (7), shots on target (3), touches in the opposition box (8). He also won possession a joint-team high six times, one of which led to his second goal as he nicked the ball from Andre Gomes.
"With six goals and three assists this season, he is by far and away Crystal Palace's standout performer. Every time he has the ball, the crowd collectively sits upright and urges him on - they know he can create magic from any angle.
"While there is plenty of focus on his attacking play, he is not afraid to make those key tackles and contribute defensively. He is quite literally everywhere, all the time. It's perfect for Crystal Palace, who have been crying out for youth and creativity in their midfield. He also seems to have that boundless 21-year-old energy, making him an overall nightmare for opponents.
"Gallagher brings with him the fever of anticipation and excitement, and always delivers. He is without a doubt a star for the future."
Sky Sports' Graeme Souness speaking on Super Sunday:
"He's not there now [for Chelsea]. There are 21-year-olds who look like the finished article, I think he's a young 21-year-old who has a bit of filling out to do.
"He's got all the technique you need, he has a fabulous attitude, just stick with that, avoid injuries, and you'll be a star."
Alan Pardew speaking on Super Sunday:
"He did everything in the game, it was exceptional. There's not one thing I'd fault him on, he even almost scored with a header! He's making forward runs, he's got that dynamic way about him, he wants to be involved all the time.
"Gareth [Southgate] was up at Burnley today, he should have taken himself back down home to Palace and seen Gallagher. He's knocking on the England door."
There's still a lot to come from him. He'll need to manage his strength and find out the best way to manage his energy. He's a fantastic player to have.
Patrick Vieira on December 13:
"There's still a lot to come from him. He'll need to manage his strength and find out the best way to manage his energy. He's a fantastic player to have.
"He gives everything to the team and he can score goals. To have a midfielder who can score 10-15 goals is important.
"We don't think about what will happen in the future. We have him for a year and we are pleased to work with him. It's a win-win. We'll see what happens at the end of the season."
Gareth Southgate on November 13:
"I've been very impressed with him. We've tracked Conor for quite a long time: his loan spells at Charlton, at Swansea, which obviously we knew the staff there very well, West Brom and now at Crystal Palace.
"At each loan he's done extremely well. He started the season very well with Palace and we talked about him when we named the original squad as somebody we were keen to keep an eye on.
"I suppose it's one of the benefits of being with the Under-21s, because it was an easy transition for us to bring him across, already COVID tested and going from one bubble to the other was straightforward.
"That's not to say he's only here because of that; he's here because he deserves to be here."
Chelsea have had to contend with a series of midfield injuries in recent weeks but Thomas Tuchel has suggested not.
In addition, Sky Sports News understands Palace are confident they can keep hold of Gallagher for the remainder of the season because he has played more than 50 per cent of games for the club.
Speaking to Sky Sports News in November, Tuchel said: "It's way too early to talk about his future, we will deal with all that with talks next summer. I'm not surprised Gareth Southgate loves him, I love him, all coaches would love him.
"I would have loved to have him as a team-mate when I was a player. I haven't thought about him coming back in January. It's important for him to be happy and everything to be calm. I don't think it's necessary to change everything in January."
Pressed again after Gallagher's latest brilliant display, Tuchel reiterated that message.
"I feel him happy there and that he is having this impact at Crystal Palace.
"It is too early to talk about that in public before we talk with Conor himself and what his goals are. This will happen in the summer as we all agreed to the decision that we wanted to send him to Palace."
How that decision has paid off for Palace.