Patrick Vieira knew Conor Gallagher was good. But not this good.
The 22-year-old’s potential was clear when he arrived at Selhurst Park from Chelsea in July but even so, his season in south London – a season during which he has become a Crystal Palace talisman and senior England international – has exceeded expectations.
“He surprised me with his finishing, he surprised me with his energy, he surprised me with the way he gets into the box at the right time to score goals,” Vieira says in conversation with Sky Sports.
Gallagher has scored eight of them so far – as many as he managed in his previous three loan spells combined – and registered more direct goal involvements (11) than any other Palace player.
He has been their standout performer in the Premier League, putting them within reach of their highest-ever finish, and while he is ineligible to face parent club Chelsea in the upcoming FA Cup semi-final, he has been key to their progress on that front too.
Take his performance in last month’s quarter-final.
Gallagher overpowered Everton in midfield that day and while he was not among Palace’s scorers, his influence was apparent in two of their four goals. After releasing Michael Olise before the opener, he took the initial shot that allowed Will Hughes to add the fourth.
It was typical of Gallagher that, even with 87 minutes gone and Palace three goals up, he still had the energy and desire to sprint from inside his own half to meet Odsonne Edouard’s pass on the edge of Everton’s box and force the save that fell to Hughes.
Palace supporters adore Gallagher for his indefatigable work-rate as much as his quality, and Vieira, a perfect mentor for the youngster given his own pedigree in the position, feels the same way.
“He is a team player and this is what I really love about him,” adds the Frenchman. “He sacrifices himself on the field for the team. I’m glad he gets praise because of the goals that he is scoring but everything he does is good for the team.”
His performance in Crystal Palace’s goalless draw with Manchester City, six days before that 4-0 win over Everton, provided even clearer evidence of Gallagher’s appetite for sacrifice.
Vieira’s side registered just 26 per cent of the possession that night, with Gallagher recording fewer touches (39) than in any other Premier League fixture this season, and yet he hustled and harried relentlessly, running over a kilometre further than any of his team-mates and making a huge contribution towards the result.
“I can’t feel my legs,” he told Sky Sports with a grin afterwards.
Gallagher covered 12.3km against City, the most by any Palace player all season, but such industrious performances are not unusual for him. In fact, he has surpassed the 12km mark on four separate occasions over the course of the campaign.
“The boss wants me to press,” Gallagher added.
Indeed, in addition to everything he gives Palace in an attacking sense, Gallagher has also won possession more times than any of his team-mates in the middle third, while only Wilfried Zaha has won it more times in the final third.
Gallagher showed the same hunger out of possession on his first England start against Switzerland last Saturday, his all-round performance earning him the man-of-the-match award. “He’s infectious, isn’t he?” said Gareth Southgate afterwards. “I think he can set the tone for the rest of the team.”
If there can be any criticism of Gallagher, it is that he sometimes tries to do too much, something which leaves Vieira clicking his fingers in search of the English word for canaliser – to channel.
“I think one of the areas where he can improve is in channelling his energy,” says Vieira, who has previously likened Gallagher to his former Arsenal team-mate Ray Parlour but with the goal scoring ability of Chelsea legend Frank Lampard.
“He has got so much strength, so much power, so much mobility, but it’s about finding the right time to use his energy,” he adds.
“Sometimes, I would say, he is making runs he shouldn’t make, when he should keep his energy for the right moments.”
That, though, presents a dilemma in itself and Vieira has been mindful not to stop Gallagher from playing his natural game.
“At the same time, you don’t want to take those qualities away from him because of the options he gives you as a manager,” says Vieira.
“He is unbelievable, and he is like that in life as well. He gives everything in every relationship with his team-mates and he plays in the same way as he is in his life.”
Vieira believes Gallagher will learn to refine his game over time – “he will get that with experience,” he adds – and while it is not yet clear what his future holds for him beyond this season, what is clear is that his loans up until now – with Charlton, Swansea and West Brom before Palace – have been hugely beneficial to his development.
“For a young player at this age, with that talent, I strongly believe the loans he had helped him develop himself quicker,” says Vieira.
“I strongly believe that if he hadn’t had those loans, he wouldn’t be the player he is now.
“For young players like him, to go to the next level, you need to play games. Everywhere he went, he did that.”
He has done it at Palace too. Gallagher’s performances have caused some Chelsea supporters to question the decision to send him on loan but only Tyrick Mitchell and Marc Guehi have played more Premier League minutes for Palace this season and his England breakthrough is a testament to the progress he has made.
His rise holds lessons for young players in the importance of experience and exposure. Crystal Palace may not be able to enjoy him for much longer as he nears the end of his loan spell. But Gallagher’s sheer relentlessness has already earned a place in the hearts of their supporters – and their manager.
Watch Crystal Palace vs Arsenal live on Sky Sports Premier League on Monday Night Football from 7pm; kick-off 8pm
Pep Guardiola jokes he’s ‘sorry’ that he stopped Mikel Arteta from becoming Manchester City manager
The Gunners head north leading rivals City by five points with a game in hand atop the Premier League, but acutely aware of the challenging taking on the frustrated Guardiola and company.
Arteta left Guardiola’s City setup in December 2019 to take the Arsenal helm, transforming the Gunners in remarkable fashion since.
“I am pretty sure if I would have left here before, he would be here [at City] and he would be the best, absolutely,” said Guardiola, of Arteta.
“But I extended my contract, I am sorry, and he didn’t wait, so it could not happen. But definitely it could have.”
Arteta joined Manchester City’s coaching ranks on retiring as a player in 2016, learning his craft under master tactician and serial winner Guardiola.
City’s former Barcelona boss revealed how Arteta would never celebrate goals against the Gunners, the team he represented more than 100 times between 2011 and 2016.
“He loves the club; I remember when we were together here and we scored goals, he jumped a lot and celebrated – except with one team,” said Guardiola.
“One team, every time we score a goal, I jump, look back and he was sitting there. It was Arsenal.”
R Madrid 3 – 1 A Madrid
Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior scored in extra-time as Real Madrid fought back to beat local rivals Atletico 3-1 on Thursday and reach the Copa del Rey semi-finals.
On a freezing night at a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu hosting its first game for 77 days due to the World Cup break, Real started slowly and Atletico had many dangerous counter-attacks.
Atletico captain Koke delivered a brilliant through ball to Nahuel Molina who ghosting in behind Reals defence and the full back set up Alvaro Morata, a former Real academy player, to tap the ball into an empty net in the 19th minute.
Eder Militao wasted a golden chance to equalise in the 32nd minute after Toni Kroos had delivered a perfect cross.
It was not only until Dani Ceballos came off the bench to replace the injured Ferland Mendy late in the first half that Real started to play better.
The 26-year-old midfielder injected a new dynamic into the team who were far more aggressive after the break.
Benzema wasted two good opportunities and Federico Valverde also sent a shot wide from just outside the box.
Substitute Rodrygo equalised in the 79th with a delightful goal, dribbling past three defenders before finishing well.
With Real Madrid in full control, Atletico played most of extra time with 10 men after defender Stefan Savic was shown his second yellow card for chopping down Eduardo Camavinga in the 99th minute.
Five minutes later, Real substitute Marco Asensio sent a low cross into the box and Vinicius’s deflected shot reached Benzema who unleashed an unstoppable strike into the net.
Vinicius secured Real’s win in the dying seconds with a brilliant individual goal, running half the length of the pitch before scoring with a low shot.
“We got behind very early and after Mendy’s injury the whole team had to be rebuilt. But we woke up and played really well after the break,” Ceballos told TVE.
“They played better in the first half, but the coach corrected things in the second; we took control of the ball and found the goal. Then, after the red card, everything was easier.”
Real Madrid joined Barcelona, Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals.
Everything we know about Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes’ ankle
It’s conference championship week. With only four teams on the NFL schedule this week — the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and Cincinnati Bengals — one interesting storyline can dominate the entire conversation leading up to the games. This time, it’s QB Patrick Mahomes’ ankle.
The fact that this storyline is the dominant one heading into the weekend makes sense. He’s the best player in the league, and his team is hosting the AFC Championship Game against the Bengals who are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Also, the game is taking place one week after he suffered a high-ankle sprain and was still able to hobble the Chiefs to victory — aided of course by a timely 98-yard touchdown drive that was led by backup quarterback Chad Henne.
How mobile does Mahomes look right now?
Since his right ankle got rolled against the Jacksonville Jaguars, no leg in America has had as much attention on it as his. Not even Brent Maher’s as he overcame his kicking yips during the Dallas Cowboys’ loss on Sunday to the Eagles. Mahomes’ ankle has so much attention on it that Fox 4 KC’s Harold R. Kuntz has been filming him walking down from the press conference podium the last two days. And by filming Mahomes, I mean only his legs.
Thursday update: Mahomes didn’t even need to use the stairs.
Knox’s assessment: Don’t be a hero… until Sunday.
Kuntz isn’t the only reporter on the scene sharing video footage of Mahomes’ mobility. During the portion of practice that was open to the media, many videos were sent out of Mahomes moving around. As the Chiefs were warming up, Mahomes actually jogged and spun as he headed toward his next station. He is certainly running better than he was on Sunday.
In their comments to the media, Andy Reid said that Mahomes “did a nice job and was “comfortable with what we did.” Mahomes said that he believed his Wednesday practice went, “better than I expected.”
For Chiefs fans — and those of us who want to see a well-played AFC Championship Game — this news out of Kansas City is the best we could’ve received. On the Chiefs’ most active days of practice, Mahomes was seen moving very well. Also, he and the head coach both gave positive updates about the health of the most important leg in sports this weekend.
Will the ankle affect Mahomes’ play on Sunday?
There is no possible way that Mahomes will be 100 percent against the Bengals. They are going to test that ankle by trying to apply the same type of pressure that disrupted the Buffalo Bills during the Bengals’ Divisional Round win on Sunday. However, if he can move around all game as well as he has been in practice, he will be able to play well enough for the Chiefs to have a chance at victory.
We’ve received the closeup and overhead views of Mahomes’ health. All that is left is the view at Arrowhead Stadium from the CBS cameras at 6:30 p.m. EST on Jan. 29, 2023.
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