Crystal Palace

Conor Gallagher shows his worth with midfield masterclass against Man City

Max Parsons
Conor Gallagher bagged the second at the Etihad
Conor Gallagher bagged the second at the Etihad / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Another victim of the notorious Chelsea loan network, Conor Gallagher may never get the chance to star for his parent club's senior side.

But he's doing everything he can to show he deserves the opportunity.

The 21-year-old has thrived under Patrick Vieira's tutelage at Crystal Palace so far. Since arriving at Selhurst Park, the legendary Frenchman has taken the defensively sound foundations laid by Roy Hodgson and built on them with an added flair, thrust and menace going forward.

Crucial to that attitude is Gallagher, who is the bright and tenacious busybody who links defence and attack, who injects that little something into Palace's general play, and who makes them tick when surging forward from deep.

He's thriving on loan at Palace, and his masterclass at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday should be noted by everyone - especially Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea.

It was his best performance in a Palace shirt - quite probably any shirt - to date.

It didn't take long for him to make his presence felt. Immediately pressing high up the pitch, the England Under-21 international harried the usually composed Aymeric Laporte to perfection. Picking the Spaniard's pocket, he eventually gathered the pieces before threading a perfectly-weighted ball through to Wilfried Zaha, who did the rest.

Patrick Vieira, Conor Gallagher
Conor Gallagher is thriving under Patrick Vieira / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Six minutes on the clock, 1-0 to the away side, Manchester City with it all to do; Gallagher with the epitome of hard work pays off to grab the assist.

What came afterwards was quite frankly domination of midfield. With City desperate to get back into the game, Vieira's side's template was simple: clog up the spaces, remain compact, hurriedly stifle their creative threats and break upfield when possession is won.

Palace had previously fallen short deploying the same tactics. In their last two outings, the Eagles let a 2-1 lead at Arsenal slip in the 95th minute, before Newcastle earned a point with a 65th minute equaliser.

However, this time there was tangible evidence of the side's progression under former City midfielder Vieira. A game perfectly managed, a game plan perfectly executed and a victory very well earned.

Integral to the visitors' strength in unity was Gallagher, rushing around in a measured and effective fashion. With the positional awareness of James McArthur and the ungracefully functional screen of Cheikhou Kouyate alongside him, Gallagher had the license to press and harry all that he wanted.

The man on loan from Chelsea registered seven ball recoveries (five tackles, two interceptions), two clearances and one block throughout. Practically everywhere, the 21-year-old's influence in stifling and closing down his opposition was paramount and, ultimately remunerative, for his side.

Unsurprisingly, Gallagher was also crucial when building play. His bright and progressive attitude towards playing football was always visible with his desire to take risks and convert defence into attack with blisteringly fluid counter attacks, eventually making four key passes throughout.

The Palace midfielder got his reward for an all-round influential showing with the goal that wrapped things up in the 89th minute.

It was, in fact, Gallagher himself who started the move. Picking up the ball deep inside his own half, the 21-year-old opted to send the ball into the space far ahead of Michael Olise - rather than play it to feet - before surging upfield to join the attack himself. Following some hesitation from Zaha inside the City area, Olise would eventually lay the ball off for Gallagher to rifle into Ederson's top corner.

A splendid goal to add to his assist, marking a glowing performance with concrete statistics. Those decisive actions were, however, simply the tip of a hugely impressive iceberg on Saturday afternoon; he was central to everything.

Gallagher is rapidly becoming the most important cog in Vieira's midfield. His energetic, forward-thinking and comprehensive style of play is allowing him to soar at the heart of this Eagles side.

And his masterclass against Manchester City was just proof of the youngster's worth as a Premier League talent - one who could be starring at the very highest level in the near future.