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Conor Gallagher gives Chelsea glimpse of future alongside Mason Mount as England claim justified



The midfielder did well in first senior England start against Switzerland at Wembley

Conor Gallagher during the international friendly match between England and Switzerland at Wembley. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Conor Gallagher during the international friendly match between England and Switzerland at Wembley. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
It is always hard to extract firm evidence from a spring friendly but in a World Cup year no opportunity can go to waste. For those on the fringes, one good performance, supplemented with continued strong club form, can be the route to Nations League action in June; excel there and a seat on the plane to Doha could be reserved.

That was the mentality expected from Ben White, Marc Guehi and Conor Gallagher from the start against Switzerland this evening and Tyrick Mitchell during an improved second half.

For Guehi and White this was a tricky assignment in which they would have been hoping for a little better. Mitchell did alright in his half hour but will be more than aware of the competition at full back. And Gallagher produced the most striking performance of the four.

But first, the defenders for whom this was a huge chance to stake a claim. Guehi won the penalty converted by Harry Kane to give England a scrappy enough win and while neither made any individual errors there was an unsettled, scrambling look to the collective defensive performance in the opening half.

In the medium-term Guehi and White’s route is complicated by two of the first-choice centre backs being in unideal club situations.

Maguire has been a rock for England but the source of mockery and dismay in a Manchester United shirt, the discussion over whether he should be stripped of the captain’s armband a noisy distraction from the fact he has looked slow and has been culpable for daft errors.

Stones, meanwhile, finds himself behind Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias at Manchester City. Nothing to be ashamed of but, again, not ideal for what the national team manager hopes is a key part of a backline capable of going all the way.

White, on the other hand, has been a key reason behind Arsenal’s rise to Champions League contention and Guehi is winning an increasing number of admirers for the leadership ability displayed in Crystal Palace’s young team.

Gallagher has gained even more attention further forward at Palace and should he end up forming part of Chelsea’s team next season his Qatar hopes will naturally be boosted further. Last summer Thomas Tuchel was in two minds over whether to keep Gallagher but Patrick Vieira was so insistent that the new Palace head coach all but guaranteed he would be the first name on the team-sheet at Selhurst Park. The prospect of 90 minutes of Premier League football every matchday over more time on the Chelsea bench than on the pitch tipped the balance.

No one has looked back and of the fresh faces in Southgate’s team tonight it is easier to see Gallagher making more of an impact at the end of the year than the rest. He started on the right of a three with Jordan Henderson holding and Mason Mount on the left. A glimpse of the future in West London, perhaps; a brief chance for supporters anxious around the ownership situation to be distracted by brighter days to come.

Gallagher was the most lively player of a staid enough opening. He pressed ferociously inside two minutes and then had the game’s first real chance when cutting in and curling goalwards with his left foot only for Silvan Widmer to head away for a corner.

When he had a cross cleared early in the second half the intensity with which he raced back to intercept and stop the counterattack was more than notable. That determination and work ethic has one downside noted at Palace: plenty of fouls and yellow cards. That can be cleaned up and managers would much rather a player working hard off the ball and being penalised than being lazy.

Since his breakthrough Gallagher has stood out because of his box-to-box play, an approach more familiar with the previous generation of players. For England his versatility is a positive because the midfield will change shape depending on opposition and his do-it-all skillset means he can push further forward or sit deeper.

Southgate’s inclination will be to remain loyal to key members of the European Championship team but come November form and conditioning will take precedence. Much will change in the next seven months but in both categories Gallagher ranks high enough to deserve a squad place.

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