'At the moment': Southgate says he's spotted a weakness in Gallagher's game after England camp this week

Gareth Southgate highlighted the area of Conor Gallagher’s skill-set that could be improved following his involvement with England this week.

Speaking after his side defeated the Ivory Coast last night, Southgate admitted that the on-loan Chelsea midfielder is not yet ready to play in a deeper position for his country.

Conor keeps up appearances

Gallagher featured in both of England’s friendlies across the international break.

He started against Switzerland and was named Player of the Match for a typically tenacious performance.

Photo by Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA via Getty Images

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The 22-year-old then played the final flourishes of yesterday’s routine victory over Cote d’Ivoire, both outings achieved under the Wembley arch.

Although the World Cup is still some way off, and a lot can happen before then, Gallagher certainly gave a good account of himself in an area that’s already hotly contested.

In the first fixture, he was replaced by Declan Rice, arguably one of the few with a place already nailed down in the 23-squad for Qatar.

Then, the Crystal Palace loanee replaced James Ward-Prowse, Southampton’s set-piece king who just missed out on the European Championships.

Fine-tuning

Along with Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips, England’s central midfield is certainly well-stocked.

Not to mention the ‘number ten’ role, which could be occupied by Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and Emile Smith Rowe, not to mention Gallagher and Bellingham.

However, for the latter two, Southgate only really saw them as offensive pressers, rather than defensive destructors.

“He might end up being able to play a bit deeper (than the number eight) but at the moment he’s young, he wants to go and press and that takes him out of the defensive positions a little bit too early,” said the England boss on Bellingham.  

“It’s a bit like Gallagher. They want to go and press so at the moment they are not going to have the stability to play as one of the deeper (players), maybe as a double pivot.

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“You could do it in a 3-4-3 if you were letting one go earlier, but the likes of Rice, Henderson and Phillips have the tactical awareness that are going to be important in those positions.”

Being tied down to one job could either play into Gallagher’s hand, or go in the opposite direction.

Southgate is a fan of multi-purpose players, emphasised by his constant change between a back three or a back four.

Yet, he generally sticks with two central midfielders, more often with Rice partnering one other.

Whilst Gallagher’s energy and work rate cannot be discredited, it may actually harm his defence depending on the system England deploy at the winter tournament.

Fingers crossed that is not the case.

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.