The man who conquered talk amongst all EPL fans on Twitter in the first half of the system, a man who is widely respected and well regarded in the English game. Conor Gallagher has become the most recent name in the Aston Villa rumour mill and that we want him...badly. With a pricetag of £30-35 million being thrown around we look into what Gallagher brings to the team, where he fits in, and most notably a view from notable Palace fan HLTCO (Hopkins Looking To Curl One) my go-to for anything palace related.
Conor Gallagher has been deemed to be one of Englands' brightest stars right now, having already featured for the senior England team it's clear to see the vision of Conor becoming one of the Three Lions' main midfielders for the near future. But it's important to know what Gallagher brings as a player, and who he actually is because it's all well and good watching a compilation or MOTD highlights but it's time for a deep dive into the season Gallagher has had in 21/22. On a base line, Gallagher managed 34 premier league appearances in the 21/22 season contributing with 8 goals and 3 assists, a return of 11 direct goal contributions in 34 appearances for Crystal Palace who finished the season in 12th 3 points ahead of the Villa. The sheer number of appearances shows the clear prevalence of Conor in that Palace team that many had dubbed to be firmly in the bottom 3. It's clear to many that Gallagher had a much better first half of the season to the second, he definitely veered off in the latter stages and suffered most likely from fatigue having had a playstyle I've seen described as 'dog-like'.
In fact, if we are going to discuss Gallaghers season last year, best I use the quote I got from HLTCO when I asked him to give me an insight to Gallagher. It reads 'He’s an incredibly hard-working box-to-box midfielder who, in the right system can be a real goal threat too. I’ve honestly never seen a central midfielder cover as much ground as him at Palace, I can honestly see him retiring because his body has given up by 30. Went off the boil in the last 2-3 months as I personally felt he was over trying a tad'. Firstly, my thanks to HLTCO for getting back to me so quick on this and giving the real fan insight. I want to pick out some notable parts of this quote, that not only does Gallagher cover immense ground but he possesses a goal threat in the correct system. Now we know Villa are in desperate need of this style of midfielder. A ball carrier, hurrier, and ball player that can provide at both ends of the field. It's good to see Gallagher didn't teeter off in those last 2-3 months for a 'bad reason' but because he was trying that extra amount he probably didn't need to. That's a great quality to have in a player that could bring that higher level to Villa's midfield and suit the style Gerrard wants to adopt.
Looking at the statistical side of things, which we must do in today's age, Gallagher possesses quite a few notable stats I feel will be key to any Villa Faithful to see. So with HLTCO mentioning Gallagher was so box to box, you see that with his defensive statistics with a 54% tackle success rate and 65 fouls for the season resulting (not just from the fouls of course) in 10 bookings for the season. Not just that but 187 recoveries, 199 duels won but 228 duels lost, whilst Conor isn't frightened to go for a 50/50 he isn't always the winner coming away with 43 successful. It's important we look at Gallagher in the light of a midfielder who is energetic, bold, rash, and persistent as is seen by his high rate of duels both won and lost. Not shying away from the game, nor ghosting. He also put out 52 shots through the season, 22 of which being on target thus backing up the goal threat that HLTCO mentioned Gallagher does possess. Whilst I don't want to be focusing solely on the % and statistical side of things (as I believe the game of football is judged by us on the eye, not the paper) it's an important part of looking into a player, especially how a club like Villa would be also. I'm not going to sit here and tell you these stats are world-beating, that Gallagher is the most hidden gem, he isn't. But he's what Villa need and I know in our system, under Gerrard he will thrive. There is clear room for growth and for this to be his second full season in the premier league with his first being for the Boing Boing Baggies, standing at 22 years old I fully believe these are very very good stats for a man of his age and in his experience.
So, how would Gallagher fit in at Aston Villa?
Despite all of the debate within the Villa fan sphere, I believe we can all agree that Villa need a player at least like Gallagher in our midfield and whether you side with Luiz/McGinn/Ramsey we need that improvement to take us to the next level. Gallagher fits the mold that Gerrard appears to value in his midfield, a runner and enforcer that will bomb up and down the field much like what McGinn does on his good days. Speaking on how Gerrard will likely see Gallagher fit in I believe it'd be in a midfield three alongside Kamara and McGinn, and that midfield does have some legs in it but in my eyes, I'd swap McGinn for Ramsey but I am biased towards Jacob himself. It's a debate roaming through, will we go with the 4-3-3 or the diamond 4-4-2 (4-1-2-1-2 almost) and I still see the 4-3-3 as Gerrards' preferred formation and style allowing the full packs to get involved with the wide players and that 3 to help overload the center and allow the attack to have that expansion both wide and through the middle. If that's the case, having Gallagher as one of the three will give the legs needed to allow the back and forth and the inevitable situation which we saw a few times last season (few to say the least) where we lose the ball in attack and in transition we're a bit shorthanded at the back. That's exactly where a Gallagher brings the pressures as aforementioned and the box-to-box aspect.
If we were to play the diamond formation, it would still be the same dilemma of selection at the CM position. The DM position in my eyes would not suit Gallagher as it massively limits the attacking output he can have not to mention Kamara is likely to have that locked up for years to come now. So we'd have an overload in midfield in the Diamond with having a possible central link-up between Gallagher and Coutinho/Buendia which fills me with a lot of joy imagining the attacking plays we could put into action. It's important to note, to be a successful team and one that we want to not only press for Europe but engage in the cup runs we are so desperate for, we need competition in these positions and that's exactly what Gallagher brings. Competition for McGinn, Ramsey, Sanson (if he stays) and Luiz (same again). No player wants to be on the bench or worse left out of a matchday squad, so imagine the fire being lit under the likes of Luiz and McGinn. We may finally see the full extent of both's abilities. Not only does Gallagher bring an improvement to the matchday squad, he brings one of the most important aspects of premier league football. Competition.
Price, reality, and final thoughts
The price tag floating around is between £28-35 million for Gallagher from everything I can find and with the reports that Villa still have around £50 million to play with this summer I just do not see a world in which that doesn't scream a great deal. Putting aside the possibilities of add-ons, agent fees, or wages which seems to be the new norm I believe the tag matches exactly what you get, not to mention the "English tax" as I call it. It appears to me, a deal worth doing. Gallagher fits what Gerrard wants, more over what Gerrard needs for this team to be a success in the 22/23 season. Now the reality we have to face is, we aren't the only ones in for him. Everton are also a favourite in line, with the Lampard links too much to ignore alongside the view that some still have in that Everton are a club of more stature than Villa. Untrue of course, but as the relegation fight of last season showed, a view held but a large portion of football media and football fandom. It does also mean a large portion of our remaining budget going on one player, does Gallagher go straight into the XI and who makes way? McGinn who appears to be Gerrards' ideal man to lead Villa forward? Ramsey who had a breakout season and much like Gallagher veered off towards the end of the season due to attempting too much and playing too much? It's not a straightforward sell, we have to also see that a backup at left-back, possibly right back and a forward are also playing into the minds of the Villa fans and the management team. I wish personally, it was an open and shut sale with Gallagher holding the claret and blue by the time I grab my coffee tomorrow morning but sadly reality is not that simple.
My final thoughts on the matter? Gallagher would not only be a brilliant addition but one that makes complete sense on both the footballing side and the marketing side. Signing an up-and-coming, popular English midfielder who already has featured of the senior team shows authority and shows strength. Not only do we attract players like Coutinho and Diego Carlos, but the homegrown talent is also buying into the claret and blue uprising. If we go into next season with talents such as Ramsey, Gallagher, Chuk, Tim, and Archer not only have we built for the now, it's building for a successful future which we have not done yet and will remain vital for our charge-up the table and to restore our status as one of not only England's big boys but in Europe also.
Cheers for having a read, remember to follow @AVFCFaithful_ on socials and keep an eye for the next piece from ourselves. I've been @Dan_Clarkey.