Conor Gallagher shines for Crystal Palace and England but Patrick Vieira thinks he can still improve | Soccer News

Patrick Vieira knew Conor Gallagher was good. But no 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 in which he became a Crystal Palace talisman and a senior England international – exceeded expectations.

“He surprised me with his finishing, he surprised me with his energy, he surprised me with the way he enters the box at the right time to score goals,” Vieira said in conversation with sky sports.

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

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

He has been their best player in the Premier League, putting them within reach of their best result, and although he is not eligible to face parent club Chelsea in the upcoming FA Cup semi-final, he has been the key to their progress on this. front too.

Take his quarter-final performance last month.

Gallagher overpowered Everton in midfield that day and although he was not among Palace’s goalscorers, his influence was evident in two of their four goals. After releasing Michael Olise before the opener, he took the first hit which allowed Will Hughes to add the fourth.

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

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Gallagher is hugely influential to the right of Crystal Palace’s third midfielder

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

“He’s a team player and that’s what I really like about him,” adds the Frenchman. “He sacrifices himself on the pitch for the team. I’m glad he’s getting praise because of the goals he scores, 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 recorded just 26 per cent of ball possession that night, with Gallagher registering fewer touches (39) than in any other Premier League game this season, and yet he shoved and harassed tirelessly, running more than a mile further than any of his team-friends and making a huge contribution to the result.

“I can’t feel my legs anymore,” he said sky sports with a smile afterwards.

Gallagher has covered 12.3km against City, the most of any Palace player all season, but such diligent performances are not unusual for him. In fact, he broke the 12km mark four times during the campaign.

“The boss wants me to insist,” added Gallagher.

Indeed, in addition to all he gives Palace in an attacking sense, Gallagher has also won the ball 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 thirst for possession in his first England start against Switzerland last Saturday, his all-round performance earning him the Man of the Match award. “He’s contagious, isn’t he?” said Gareth Southgate afterwards. “I think he can set the tone for the rest of the team.”

If there can be one criticism of Gallagher, it’s that he sometimes tries to do too much, which leaves Vieira snapping her fingers at the English word for channel – the chain.

“I think one of the areas where he can improve is channeling his energy,” said Vieira, who has previously compared Gallagher to former Arsenal team-mate Ray Parlor but with the ability to score goals. of Chelsea legend Frank Lampard.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Jean-Philippe Mateta celebrates with his teammate Conor Gallagher of Crystal Palace after scoring their team's opening 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)
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Conor Gallagher has scored eight Premier League goals for Crystal Palace

“He has 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 does errands he shouldn’t do, when he should be saving his energy for the good times.”

That, however, presents a dilemma in itself and Vieira was careful not to prevent 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’s amazing, and he’s like that in life too. He gives his all in every relationship with his teammates and he plays the same way he is in his life.”

Vieira believes Gallagher will learn to hone his game over time – “he will get it with experience”, he adds – and although it is not yet clear what his future holds for him beyond that of this season, what East clear is that his loans so far – with Charlton, Swansea and West Brom ahead of Palace – have been hugely beneficial to his development.

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

“For a young player of this age, with this talent, I strongly believe that the loans he had helped him develop faster,” Vieira said.

“I firmly believe that if he hadn’t had those loans, he wouldn’t be the player he is now.

“For young players like him, to get to the next level, you have to play games. Everywhere he went, he did that.”

He did it at the Palace too. Gallagher’s performances have had some Chelsea supporters questioning the decision to send him out on loan, but only Tyrick Mitchell and Marc Guehi have played more Premier League minutes for Palace this season and his breakthrough in England is testament to the progress that he made.

His rise is indicative for young players of the importance of experience and exposure. Crystal Palace may not be able to enjoy it any longer as he nears the end of his loan spell. But Gallagher’s sheer doggedness has already earned a place in the hearts of their supporters – and their manager.

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