Article by Drew Gooding:
Conor Gallagher has returned to Chelsea following a loan spell which has shown the young midfielder to be not only one of the countries most exciting talents at 22, but also arguably the signing of the season; at least outside of the ‘big 6’ clubs. Understandably, interested around Gallagher has swirled in recent weeks, with Everton, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa reportedly in for the dynamic midfielder.
This has naturally raised questions amongst the Villa fandom, most prominently on whether or not his signing would stunt the growth of emerging starlet Jacob Ramsey. Both youngsters demonstrated extraordinary performances for their age, becoming integral parts of the projects overseen by two iconic midfielders: Patrick Viera and Steven Gerrard.
Ramsey celebrated the end of the season with both Villa’s young player of the season and Players’ player of the season awards. This did not come as a surprise, the Birmingham born midfielder scored 6 goals, assisting 1 in the campaign, numbers which have allowed Villa to collect the 9th highest points total since Gerrard’s appointment. Despite the notable differences in both position and style, Ramsey has gone a long way in filling the huge hole that Jack Grealish left in the summer; providing creativity and drive from deep, later allowing final third technician Phillipe Coutinho to remain higher up the pitch. Coutinho, a player who had waited years to once again display his talent, seemingly formed a telepathic connection with Ramsey, brilliantly illustrated in the home fixture against Leeds where both of Ramsey’s goals were masterfully crafted by the Brazilian.
Gallagher’s performances also inevitably earnt him the player of the season award, the loanee scored an impressive 8 goals, with a further 3 assists. This goal tally was the second highest from out and out central midfielders; only bettered by Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse. Everything Palace did this season seemed to revolve around the Chelsea loanee, a energetic, all action midfielder who, under Roy Hodgson, would of likely been ignored for safer, more conservative midfielders. Gallagher averaged an impressive 2 tackles per game, a stat which demonstrates both his considerable engine and eagerness to press; a characteristic often seen to be instilled in the infinite conveyor belt of Chelsea’s youth set-up. The 22-year-old has punctuated consistently fantastic performances with spectacular moments, the best of which coming through a 93rd minute rocket against Everton.
The aforementioned characteristics seemingly make Gallagher a no-brainer for Gerrard, who has made it clear the club are looking to sign another midfielder. However, the question remains on whether the incoming of Gallagher would disrupt the role that Ramsey has seemingly mastered. Ramsey’s deployment alongside John McGinn has been a shining light throughout Villa’s season, following the signing of Kamara, the interest in Gallagher would suggest one of these players will be regularly missing out. Although this is a healthy problem, it is natural to think whether the large sum required to tempt Chelsea’s sale would be better spent in areas which are less talent rich. Gerrard is not that type of manager, the ex-Rangers man is willing to upset, a point perfectly demonstrated by the signing of Lucas Digne and immediate dismissal former players’ player Matt Targett.
It may be arrogant to have any doubt at all about signing such a talent, too many top players are very rarely a bad thing. Kamara, McGinn, Ramsey, and Gallagher; the combination of any three of these sparks’ unimaginable excitement – Kamara a proficient holding midfielder, comfortable on the ball and capable of destroying opposition attacks. The other 3 midfielders listed are all players who are too good to finish 14th, dynamic players who will create as effectively as they will press. The prospect of this midfield behind new permanent arrival Coutinho is reason to hope the club can begin to finally challenge in the top half.
Gallagher’s signing would be another statement made by the Villans, a statement which, if made, further highlights Gerrard’s refusal to pass up on excellent talent.
Article By Drew Gooding