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Talking Tactics

Gallagher already one of the best box-to-box midfielders

Adrian Clarke 2 Feb 2022

Adrian Clarke analyses the qualities the 21-year-old has brought to Crystal Palace

Adrian Clarke assesses five contenders for the 2021/22 Hublot Young Player of the Season award.

Conor Gallagher (CRY)

Gallagher's loan spell at Crystal Palace has been such a roaring success that he must now be considered one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the country.

The 21-year-old is the Eagles' leading scorer with seven Premier League goals and has also chipped in with three assists.

An excellent tackler, a superb deliverer of set-pieces and a furiously hard worker, Gallagher has been a shining star for Patrick Vieira's side.

Hublot Young Player contenders

One of the midfielder's strongest traits is his ability to drift off markers to get on the end of chances.

Six of Gallagher's seven Premier League goals this term have come from situations where he has found a pocket of space, either from a pass or by picking up a loose second ball.

Five of those strikes have stemmed from advanced positions taken up inside the box.

Before Gallagher's arrival at Selhurst Park there was a reliance on Wilfried Zaha and Palace's strikers to deliver the majority of direct goal involvements.

Gallagher's role as a purposeful attacking central midfielder has now given Palace a new dimension.

Manchester City's Bernardo Silva and Chelsea's Mason Mount are the only two players who operate in a similar role to have had more touches and shots inside the box this term.

Gallagher's willingness to join in and make up numbers has reaped rewards.

PL midfielders 2021/22*
Player Touches in opp. box Player Shots inside box
Bernardo Silva 125 Mason Mount 27
Mason Mount 83 Bernardo Silva 24
Conor Gallagher 60 Conor Gallagher 23
Tomas Soucek 56 Tomas Soucek 23
Bruno Fernandes,
Ilkay Gundogan
52 Ilkay Gundogan 23

*not including wingers or wide forwards

Gallagher does not just come alive when Palace have possession. He is also hugely influential off the ball.

Among Eagles players he ranks second for distance covered ( per 90), pressures (40.3 per 90) and possession won (121), with left-back Tyrick Mitchell the only team-mate to have won more regains for Vieira's men.

Across the Premier League as a whole, Gallagher is ranked fourth among midfielders for the highest number of tackles won this season.

Top tackling midfielders 2021/22
Player Most tackles won
Christian Norgaard 42
Stuart Dallas 40
Yves Bissouma 35
Conor Gallagher 30
Sean Longstaff 29
Cheikhou Kouyate 29
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg 29

Gallagher's fabulous second goal in the 3-1 success at home to Everton perfectly encapsulated his all-round game.

Sprinting back to rob Andre Gomes with a tackle outside the box, he then curled a delicious 21-yarder into the top corner.

In addition to Gallagher's consistent goal and defensive contributions he is also the Eagles' most creative player.

The loan star has manufactured 31 chances, a team-high, with 13 of those coming from accurate dead-ball deliveries.

Gallagher is a talent who offers so much quality end product to Palace.

With plenty of scope for further improvement, this exciting midfielder looks destined to become a difference-maker for many years to come.

Also in this series

Part 1: Smith Rowe driving Arsenal on with surging runs and goals
Part 3: Rice evolving from defensive specialist into top all-rounder
Part 4: All-round skills make Dennis Watford's main man
Part 5: Ramsey has perfect mentor as he develops his end product

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