Gallagher's first England start shows how he can fit into Tuchel's Chelsea plans

Conor Gallagher England Getty Images

Chelsea will have kept a close eye on loan star Conor Gallagher when making his first start for England at Wembley against Switzerland on Saturday evening.

Having excelled at Crystal Palace all season, the 22-year-old Cobham academy graduate has earned a promotion from the national under-21 setup. 

Gallagher plays in front of a back four in a 4-3-3 system under Patrick Vieira for the Eagles. With England, he got the chance to show Thomas Tuchel what he might be like in one of the Chelsea manager’s favoured formations. 

Like Tuchel, Gareth Southgate uses a three-man defence as his primary system and opted for a 3-5-2 shape on Saturday. 

Gallagher played on the right side of a midfield three with Jordan Henderson holding and both Mason Mount and Gallagher as box-to-box No.8s

With two forwards ahead of him in Phil Foden and Harry Kane, Gallagher had licence to join the attack. After 14 minutes, a lung-bursting run allowed him a curling shot which was cleared off the line. 

England went behind to a Breel Embolo header but Gallagher was involved in England's equaliser, taking up a good high pressing position as his side won the ball high up the pitch. 

The ball fell at his feet and he threaded an outside-of-the-foot through ball to Luke Shaw who scored just before half-time

Just after the break, he almost got another assist by clipping a ball in behind the Swiss backline but Harry Kane's shot was saved by goalkeeper Jonas Omlin. 

Gallagher was replaced in the 60th minute by Declan Rice but got an embrace from Southgate, who had an eye on managing the minutes of his players at a crucial time of the season at their clubs. 

"Conor is a player who is infectious with his energy and aggression to press," Southgate said after the match. "I thought he could be tidier with the ball a few times. 

"I thought he played a fabulous ball for Harry Kane in the second half. It is the first time in a long time that we’ve started without either Rice or [Kalvin] Philips and it is important to see that in terms of defensive solidity and the balance of the team."

At the time he came off, Gallagher had won possession back six times - four in the opposition half - which was more than any of his team-mates. He had also made the most tackles and clearances of any England player. 

Kane went on to seal the win from the penalty spot in the 79th minute, with the Three Lions winning 2-1 on the night

With eight goals and five assists for his club this season, Gallagher was showcased in his best role as a No.8 at international level for the first time, a role which allows him to impose his energy onto matches. 

"The role I played today is very similar to what I have been playing all season. I think the manager did that on purpose. I felt comfortable and I was happy playing today," Gallagher said at Wembley after the match. 

"It was great to play alongside Hendo [Jordan Henderson] - he's obviously a great leader and he was talking to me the whole time and gave me that licence to go and push forward and make the box and press when I could. It definitely suited me.

"I felt amazing, it was my first time playing at Wembley. It was a massive buzz to play in front of all these fans and with my parents watching, it was great."

Adding, when asked by GOAL about his prospects of making the World Cup squad: "Of course, that would be amazing but that’s still a few months away. 

"I need to focus on my football and take each game as it comes. Hopefully if I do well enough, impress the manager enough, then I will get a shot."

It's that exuberance which allows the young midfielder to be a goal threat, owing to his ability to arrive in the box time and again through his immense running capacity. 

Conor Gallagher quote GFX
Getty Images

"It is a real family at Palace, people want to help you a lot and Patrick Vieira has been fantastic with the both of us," England colleague Marc Guehi told Sky Sports ahead of kick-off. 

"They've given us a lot of responsibility but helping us to develop our games and move forward to help the team."

With Tuchel often preferring to play two holding players in a 3-4-3, dropping Mount or using N'Golo Kante or Mateo Kovacic as the other No.8 could allow him to replicate this system with Gallagher involved. 

Indeed, Tuchel and everyone at Chelsea have been delighted with the development of the player on loan at Selhurst Park. 

The Blues have already told clubs interested in signing the midfielder that they won't enter conversations about his sale, with a £50 million ($66m) valuation pricing almost every club in world football out of signing him. 

Tuchel is keen to recall the dynamic midfielder in the summer to add to his options, with doubts over Jorginho's future amid interest from Juventus and him entering the last year of his contract. 

Article continues below

Saul Niguez is also likely to return to Atletico Madrid after his season-long loan deal despite an option to buy in the contract at £30m ($41m). 

It leaves some space at Stamford Bridge for Gallagher to develop, who pushed for his Palace loan move last summer even though Tuchel was happy to keep him around. 

As well as trying to force his way into England's World Cup squad for Qatar 2022, Gallagher was able to offer Tuchel a glimpse at what next season might look like.