Why West Brom should try to win the race for Conor Gallagher
The 19-year-old, who was a part of Chelsea’s back-to-back FA Youth Cup triumphs in 2016-17 and 2017-18, won the 2018-19 Academy Player of the Year award before heading out on loan to newly-promoted Charlton Athletic in the EFL Championship this past summer.
Gallagher hasn’t looked back since then and has carved out a reputation for himself as a fine young box-to-box midfielder in the making.
The highly-rated teenager has accumulated 6 goals and 2 assists in 24 league appearances for the Addicks under Lee Bowyer and his abrupt emergence on to the scene has put him on the radar of a host of clubs.
Swansea City have also been credited with an interest in Epsom-born prodigy while Premier League outfit Burnley have identified him as a replacement for underwhelming Chelsea loanee, Danny Drinkwater, who has emerged as a loan target for Aston Villa in the January window. (h/t Daily Mail)
As per the report, Gallagher is expected to cut short his loan spell at The Valley before the end of this month and with so many clubs hot on the trail of the 19-year-old, Chelsea could well be tempted to cash in on one of their prized academy assets.
Meanwhile, West Brom shared the spoils with Leeds United in a top-of-the-table clash in the Championship on New Year’s Day that ended 1-1 at the Hawthorns.
Semi Ajayi put the Baggies in the driver’s seat very early in the clash but he turned from a hero to a villain with an own goal in the second half, as Marcelo Bielsa’s side remained on top of the standings on the virtue of a better goal difference.
Currently level on points with Leeds and nine clear of third-placed Brentford, West Brom are placed comfortably in the race for automatic promotion in the Championship and the Baggies don’t really need to make any wholesale changes to the squad during the mid-season trading period.
With that in mind, however, they need to start looking at life beyond promotion and splashing the cash on talented players in January would certainly make a lot of sense as far as Slaven Bilic’s long-term project at the Hawthorns is concerned.
To put things into perspective, Conor Gallagher has reached great heights in his first season at the senior level and West Brom have every reason to look at him as someone who could work wonders for them in the years to come.
As per Whoscored, Gallagher averages 28.1 passes per game at an accuracy of 78.1%, including 0.8 key passes, 2 long balls, 1.9 tackles, 1 interception and 1.4 dribbles per game in the Championship this season, figures which lie testament to his well-rounded qualities as a box-to-box ace.
The 19-year-old primarily featured as a left-sided midfielder in Lee Bowyer’s 4-1-2-1-2 formation earlier in the campaign, but with the manager tinkering his system in the past few months, Gallagher has also illustrated his versatility to play in wide and advanced attacking roles.
Matheus Pereira, who has contributed with 5 goals and 10 assists so far, has been one of the key driving forces behind West Brom’s surge for automatic promotion this season while West Ham loanee Grady Diangana has also been instrumental with his dazzling displays down the flanks.
The stability in the middle of the park provided by the pairing of Romaine Sawyers and Jake Livermore has been one of the hallmarks of Bilic’s 4-2-3-1 system, but it is imperative to say that the Baggies haven’t got a lot of depth beyond that.
With Rekeem Harper failing to break into the Croatian’s plans and Gareth Barry pretty much nearing his swansong as a professional footballer at 38, West Brom have some serious squad depth issues to sort out moving forward and an exceptional young talent like Conor Gallagher certainly fits the bill.
As well as his ability to play in a deeper box-to-box role, Gallagher is also creative enough to play in a No.10 role behind the striker where West Brom can certainly do with more competition for places in the near future.
Pereira has undoubtedly been an inspired addition to the club’s ranks but Benfica loanee Filip Krovinovic’s uninspired displays continue to be a cause of concern for the Baggies.
Suffice to say, Gallagher’s versatility to play in multiple roles means that he could offer Bilic with some quality cover and the 19-year-old is only going to get better with time.
The Croatian boss has worked wonders with youngsters like Diangana, Nathan Ferguson and Kyle Edwards, and Gallagher could reach even better heights under his guidance.
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Having said that, West Brom would bag a real coup if they manage to beat off competition in the race to sign Conor Gallagher, who has a big future ahead of him.