While it’s hard and possibly unfair to pin all of Chelsea’s problems on one thing because many people are at fault for their pedestrian start to the season, one player in particular, seems to get a pass. That man would be none other than 23-year-old English midfielder Conor Gallagher. His replacement waiting in the wings should be none other than Christopher Nkunku.
So far Gallagher has played and started in all 13 Premier League games for the Blues this season and has managed to register zero goals, and four assists. Now I know what you are thinking, ‘Well if he has four assists, he can’t be that bad of a player?’ And yes, not everything he has done has been bad, but there are plenty of times when he looks like he’s playing as a ghost and is invisible on the pitch.
But if you take away the stats and use the eye test to evaluate Gallagher’s play? What does he do extraordinarily well? His eye for goal has been very poor this year, he had a chance in the game against Newcastle United around the 36th minute where he nearly whiffed at the ball when trying to score. Now, that game that CFC lost 4-1 was hardly all Gallagher’s fault, the entire team except Raheem Sterling played badly.
One of the biggest reasons why the former Crystal Palace loanee has played so much this season is not necessarily because of his performance level but rather a lack of a better option. Since Todd Boehly has taken over as the owner of Chelsea, he has installed Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley as the co-sporting directors, who are in charge of signing players.
Except for their first summer transfer window, since then the approach has been abundantly clear, go after very young players, sign them to long contracts, and build a team for the future. Well, that approach may seem sensible at first, but in reality, it’s a very flawed approach that hasn’t done Chelsea any good so far. They hardly have any players over 25, and most of the players who feature in the starting 11 (minus Thiago Silva) are all under 30 years old. Right now, when you look at the Blues bench, who is a better alternative than Gallagher? Lesley Ugochukwu, Noni Madueke? There aren’t a lot of options, to put it bluntly.
Nkunku has been out the entire season due to a knee injury he suffered on August 8th, just five days before Chelsea’s Premier League campaign began. Around November, the Frenchman returned to the training ground and has slowly been trying to work his way back onto the pitch.
When healthy he’ll be able to provide something, that Gallagher has been unable to do, and that is goals. In his last two seasons playing in the Bundesliga for RB Leipzig, he scored 36 goals in league play. Throughout the season, Chelsea have struggled to consistently score goals, and the return of the French forward should certainly help them in that department. Even though Nkunku is supposed to be more of a traditional striker or number nine, he can play in practically every attacking position and as an attacking midfielder.
Whenever the former Bundesliga star comes back he is a must to be in the eleven when he is fully fit. Someone has to be the odd man out when Nkunku is ready and unfortunately for him, Gallagher may be the odd man out. The biggest reason is that Nkunku can provide goals and assists as well, last season he had nine assists in 36 matches across all competitions, the season before that he had 20 assists in 52 appearances.
What could happen is that Gallagher becomes a more impactful player coming off the bench anyway. For Chelsea, they must find out what Nkunku’s best position is before the January transfer window begins, because maybe a certain man from Napoli will be available.