Is Conor Gallagher ready to replace N'Golo Kante at Chelsea?

Cameron Smith
  • Cameron Smith
  • Updated: September 26, 2021, 11:30 CEST
  • 5 min read
Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher celebrates scoring for Crystal Palace against West Ham

N'Golo Kante has been one of Chelsea's greatest ever signings, there's no doubt about that.

Signed for £32 million from title winners Leicester City back in 2016, Kante immediately hit the ground running at Chelsea, winning the Premier League for a second consecutive season, while also winning the PFA Player of the Year in his debut campaign at Stamford Bridge.

Playing alongside Nemanja Matic under Antonio Conte, the Frenchman was imperious in central midfield, with his energy enabling the Blues to regain possession so frequently, which allowed the likes of Eden Hazard and Pedro the time on the ball needed to show their quality.

A consistent performer, Kante did suffer a slight drop off in performance under Frank Lampard's management, however, and his status as one of the Premier League's best midfielders came into question.

But, since Thomas Tuchel's arrival at Chelsea, Kante has been back to his best, winning the Man of the Match award in the Champions League semi final and the final itself.

Despite that recent form, Kante is now 30 years old, and his body is clearly ageing. While he always seemed to be available, despite his high-energy style of play, Kante is now seemingly always picking up slight niggles that see him miss a month here or a month there.

Since the start of the 2019/20 season, Kante has missed a total of 34 games through 12 separate injuries, which is extremely worrying, especially considering he'd missed just 11 games through injury in his senior career before then.

This injury record could, reportedly, prompt Chelsea to sell Kante in 2022. That's according to Fichajes, who have reported that the Blues are willing to let the Frenchman leave. His contract expires in 2023, and no talks about a renewal have begun.

Therefore, next summer is the final chance for Chelsea to receive a transfer fee for the 2018 World Cup winner. His age, contract, and injury issues could all combine to see Kante finally depart Stamford Bridge. His potential destinations could be limited, but one thing's for certain - his time at Chelsea doesn't look like it'll last much longer.

Could N'Golo Kante leave Chelsea next summer?

Could N'Golo Kante leave Chelsea next summer?

Who could replace Kante at Chelsea?

There will be a number of primary candidates to take Kante's place should he leave Chelsea, and the Blues have been preparing for his departure.

Aurelien Tchouameni and Declan Rice appear to be the two best bets for a bid from Chelsea, with the pair two of their biggest targets. Of course, Saul Niguez has a buy option included in his loan move to Stamford Bridge, but after an underwhelming start, that already seems unlikely.

Tchouameni is one of the biggest talents to come out of France in recent years, while Rice is, of course, excelling for an impressive West Ham side. Both would be good replacements for Kante, although Tchouameni is perhaps a more similar profile of player to Chelsea's current number seven.

Both players are certainly more defensive than attacking, so if Tuchel wanted a more box-to-box option, then he may have to look elsewhere. One man he could turn to is a Chelsea player currently out on loan at Crystal Palace - it's, of course, Conor Gallagher.

Could Gallagher replace Kante?

While it may be too soon for Gallagher to be a regular member of Chelsea's first-team, especially considering he's yet to make his senior debut for the club, he could be excellent if thrown in the deep end.

Mason Mount has shown how well a midfield academy graduate can perform when placed straight into the starting XI, and Gallagher could follow suit.

Like Mount, Gallagher has been out on loan since impressing for Chelsea's academy sides, joining Charlton, Swansea, West Brom, and now Crystal Palace.

At every one of those clubs, he's impressed thoroughly as a No.8. Unlike Mount, who has moved forward into more of a No.10 role, Gallagher truly is a box-to-box midfielder, capable of playing any role in the centre of the pitch.

His time at West Brom was obviously hampered by their poor form, but Gallagher stood out, and so far at Selhurst Park, he's continued that upward trajectory.

With two goals and one assist in four league games for Palace, Gallagher has been a constant threat in the final third, perhaps best epitomised by his immense display against Tottenham. He was a thorn in Spurs' side all game long, with his lung-busting runs in behind leaving the Lilywhites midfield chasing shadows.

As well as displaying a threat when attacking, something Kante has added to his game, but hasn't perfected, Gallagher is also a competent defender.

2.7 tackles and interceptions per 90 may not sound a lot, but it's still a decent tally, especially as it was at 3.9 per 90 for West Brom last term.

He isn't at Kante's level of defensive dominance, but Gallagher does have the engine and fitness to match the Frenchman, and with a little bit of coaching from Tuchel, he could be an excellent partner to Jorginho in the Chelsea midfield double pivot.