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Chelsea’s loan army is undeniably the reason why the Blues were able to bounce back from rock bottom so quickly. Frank Lampard’s appointment in 2019 represented a complete reset of mentality in west London—or so it seemed. The club was facing a transfer embargo in the same summer it lost its most important individual in Eden Hazard. Lampard called on the loan army and injected players like Tammy Abraham, Reece James and Mason Mount into the senior squad. These individuals helped Chelsea qualify for the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League, a tournament it would go on to win less than a year later.
It’s easy to overhype the impact that some of these players—academy graduates included—may have, but there are reasons why the former Cobham prospects are held in such high esteem. The Blues’ academy has produced a plethora of top tier talent over the last few seasons in the aforementioned trio, Marc Guehi, Tino Livramento and Fikayo Tomori. This has resulted in fans searching for the next hidden gem from the loan army. One doesn’t need to look too hard to see that Conor Gallagher is not only the future at Chelsea, but he’s already arrived on the scene.
Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher will play an important role next season
Gallagher excelled in his first Premier League loan this season with Crystal Palace after tearing up the Championship last year. Thomas Tuchel decided that he didn’t have enough minutes in midfield for Gallagher with the first team before the recently concluded campaign, which ended up being the best thing for the England international’s development.
While Saul—Chelsea’s fourth choice midfielder this season—rotted away on the bench, totaling 1,409 minutes across all competitions, Gallagher played double that in the Premier League alone (2,851). The on-loan youngster played 3,210 minutes in total, managing to score an impressive eight goals and tack on five assists. The 22-year-old also took home the Eagles’ Player of the Year award for his impressive impact from the middle of the park.
Despite his scorching form throughout the entirety of the 2021/22 season, a few questions remained about his short-term future. Many clubs understandably want to offer Gallagher a chance to lead their sides for the next decade, but Chelsea is not going to let this incredible talent go anytime soon. He sat down to hold a meeting with Tuchel earlier in the week, where Gallagher was given a guarantee from the gaffer that he has an important place at his parent club going forward. This is music to supporters’ ears as they are eager to see the Epsom-born midfielder thrive in their own colors next season.
It’s unclear at this time what plan Tuchel has for next season as it relates to tactics. A summer rebuild further complicates an already complex formational situation. Gallagher’s reintegration into the first team does calm the nerves of everyone at Chelsea going forward though.
The future of the Blues’ midfield remains relatively uncertain given the contract status of both Jorginho and N’Golo Kante, who have 12 months remaining on their deals as of June 30. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and at least one of the two players mentioned in the previous sentence are expected to stay. Mason Mount and Kai Havertz can play as No. 8/10s in the right system if necessary, but it’s become apparent that the manager prefers to utilize their abilities higher up the pitch. Thus, Gallagher will play a crucial role in Chelsea’s first team in the coming years.
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