Questions were asked of Chelsea’s decision to let a wealth of their youth academy prodigies leave the club back in the summer. Most notably, centre back Marc Guehi joined Crystal Palace for £21 million, right back Valentino Livramento went to Southampton for just £5m, which currently looks like a great bit of business by the Saints, while 18-year-old midfielder Lewis Bate was offloaded to Leeds for a mere £1.5. But that is to name just a few.
One man that Marina Granovskaia, one of Roman Abramovich’s most trusted aides at the west London club, wasn’t prepared to let go on a permanent basis was Conor Gallagher. After impressing at West Bromwich Albion last season, where he was the shining light in a Baggies side that was ultimately relegated from the Premier League, Palace came sniffing around the 21-year-old in July.
While Gallagher was granted a loan to Selhurst Park, marking his fourth short-term move away from Stamford Bridge before even making a senior appearance for the Blues after pervious spells with Charlton Athletic and Swansea City, Granovskaia refused to include an option-to-buy clause in the midfielder’s contract with the south Londoners — perhaps due to the backlash of Fikayo Tomori’s loan-to-buy deal with AC Milan last year.
The problem for Palace now though is that Chelsea are reportedly interested in cutting Gallagher’s loan move short and bringing him back across the capital as early as next month. It should come as no surprise really that Thomas Tuchel is seriously considering that option. He has had to rely heavily on Ruben Loftus-Cheek in recent weeks with N’Golo Kanté and Mateo Kovačić both sidelined through injury, and there are rumours that Saúl Ñíguez could be shipped back to Atlético Madrid after largely failing to impress thus far while on loan at Stamford Bridge.
But while the Eagles and Patrick Vieira might feel hard done by if that is to be the case, you can’t blame Tuchel if he does make that difficult decision when the option is presented to him come January. Chelsea are one of the favourites to win the Premier League in the exchange bet markets, but their form has dipped in recent weeks and if the German boss wants to keep up with Liverpool and Manchester City in the title race then he will need more quality in midfield — and Gallagher has the potential to be that spark, more so than Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley, anyway.
Four goals and two assists, including a fine performance in which he played key parts in both of Palace’s goals in their shock 2-0 win over Man City at Etihad, in 10 league games earned him his first senior England call-up and he made his debut in the Three Lions’ 10-0 win over San Marino. He has remained integral to Vieira’s side since and his two recent strikes against Everton, one a long-range beauty, helped Palace end their unwanted run of three successive Premier League defeats.
With a total of nine goal contributions for the south London side, Gallagher has contributed towards over 40 percent of Palace’s goals this season (22) and is level with none other than Chelsea’s very own Mason Mount as the top scoring midfielders in the league with six strikes each. Enough to also make him Chelsea’s joint-top scorer! So, the question begs, why shouldn’t they recall the 21-year-old in January?
It seems an obvious decision to make, especially as Chelsea lack a real goalscoring threat in midfield to take the pressure off Mount a bit — aside from Jorginho’s penalty prowess, of course. However, while he undoubtedly has the ability and would help relieve the pressure on Chelsea’s midfield during an extremely busy second half of the season, there is more weight on your shoulders when you pull on the blue jersey.
That said, regular game time also wouldn’t be a guarantee for Gallagher as the title race heats up in the business end of the season and that is something he is clearly thriving off as he starts week-in, week-out at Selhurst Park. Tuchel knows the midfielder’s qualities; it was just last month that he praised him in the media.
Therefore, while Chelsea fans are itching to have him back and making his debut sooner rather than later, perhaps it is best he is left to finish his loan at Palace and try to edge his way into the squad next season after a full pre-season to impress Tuchel in summer!