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Chelsea’s engine, Conor, is the catalyst behind Chelsea’s upturn in form

Goal shy no more, the Blues have scored eight in their past two matches and not just against any old teams – Tottenham (2nd at the time) followed by reigning champions Manchester City… four against each.

The Tottenham encounter, a game of the season contender, was filled with everything; red cards (two for Spurs), goals, disallowed goals, and at last a Chelsea win against a side in the top half of the table – the last win against a top half side coming on the 24th of April 2022 (a 1-0 home win over West Ham). Nicholas Jackson helped himself to a hattrick which took his Premier League goal tally from a mere two to five in just 22 minutes late in the second half. However, before that, it was Cole Palmer’s precise penalty in the first half that had got the Blues back to one apiece. A win away at Tottenham, something Chelsea fans will never get tired of seeing.

A jubilant and upbeat Chelsea then welcomed the big boys, Manchester City, many of whom would argue have been and probably still are the best team on the planet. Falling a goal down to such a side would have been game over for last season’s Chelsea, but not this one. After leading 2-1 thanks to Silva’s precisely placed header and Sterling haunting his old side, Chelsea then fell 3-2 down and then also 4-3. Jackson had the game levelled at 3-3 thanks to his rebound goal from Gallagher’s drive which was generously parried back to the striker, by Ederson. The game seemed to be closing out to a 4-3 victory for the visitors until, former Citizen, Palmer casually strolled up like he was playing in the park from 12 yards to rescue a point in the 95th minute. Stamford Bridge had witnessed an all-time classic, something they’d been starved of for so long.

Both of these encounters had one thing in common and that was Conor Gallagher’s influence on the pair. The Englishman has been at the club his whole career and after making his first-team debut last season has really kicked on, starting every single Premier League match so far this season. Pochettino appears to have worked out his desired midfield trio which consists of recent signings, Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo who sit behind Conor which allows him the freedom to roam forward and create. The step-in captain, for Reece James, not only creates but also has been a fantastic weapon in Pochettino’s high-pressing style having won the ball back in the final third more times (20) than any other player in Europe’s top seven leagues, a remarkable stat for a player who was reportedly on his way out for 40 million in the summer. Not seen as a glamourous player in the sense that he isn’t going to take on three men, do a hundred step overs and rainbow flick his way into the box… that’s not Conor. He is a player who goes under the radar and offers so much more than what someone may first assume, a player that you notice more when he isn’t there.

BBC columnist Michael Brown has also been very impressed with Conor’s season and the influence that he’s had on Chelsea’s resurgence as of late, “There are lots of clubs that wanted him. Ultimately he decided to stay and is getting his rewards. He has got an unbelievable attitude and an unselfishness that is infectious when you have flair players who do not always do the other side of it. He covers an incredible amount of ground and the work rate is there. He has backed himself and no wonder we are seeing an improvement in Chelsea. Why would you leave when you feel there is a chance?” His four assists, all within the last five games, so far this campaign is his best already and we’re not even a third of the way through the season. The midfielder is also now averaging 1.6 key passes a game which is up from last season’s 0.6. His 34 tackles won (which averages at 2.8 per game) is only bettered by five other players in the league and his 19 interceptions see him joint third in that department… not bad for a player who is now playing in the number 10 role.

Chelsea fans, myself included, long for the days of witnessing a side consisting of a spine of; Cech, Terry, Lampard, and Drogba, a group that would simply bully teams… a lot has changed since those days. One of those changes is the ownership. Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch, was forced to hand over the ‘stewardship and care’ of the club to the Chelsea Charitable Foundation on the 26th of February 2022 due to Romans’ connections to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And then eventually after plenty of speculation, the club was bought by a new ownership group led by Todd Boehly. A lot of money has been splashed since the start of the American’s reign, close to a billion in a year, which undoubtedly raised some eyebrows. Many have had high expectations of the team and have since been let down due to their ‘outrageous’ spending with last season being nothing short of a disaster, slumping to a 12th-place finish which brought plenty of criticisms. Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter both failed to mould a team together with all the new signings that were thrown at them. The club has seemed to have turned a corner with the Pochettino being given the faith and the full confidence if the board in guiding Chelsea through this transitional phase where hopefully at the end of it they’ll be able to replicate a side that used to be so dominant across all fronts. We have started to see glimpses of a turnaround but as Poch knows there is still plenty of work to do.

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May 2024