Now is not the time to take firm decisions on whether Conor Gallagher will be part of Thomas Tuchel’s squad at Chelsea next season, but the boss is closely following the young midfielder’s progress.
The 21-year-old has demonstrated his ability at Premier League level while on loan at West Bromwich Albion this season, having played in 23 of tomorrow’s opponents’ 29 top-flight games. Regulations do not allow the player to turn out against the Blues at Stamford Bridge this weekend, but Tuchel has told Gallagher what his immediate aims should be.
‘It is not only my decision, it his responsibility to show up and this is what he does,’ the boss said on the question of the England Under-21 international becoming part of the Chelsea squad, where he would join the collection of others who have graduated from our Academy.
‘It is not the moment to take decisions now for Conor but I am very aware that he is still our player. The momentum now is that we have crucial weeks ahead of us, and for him and his mission at West Brom also.
‘So he fought his way through as a loan player which is very impressive and he never stops improving. He is a very regular player for West Brom and I wish that he can stay totally focused on that and when it is the moment and the situation to decide, we will decide - but it is clearly not now.’
A decision Tuchel does have to make for this weekend is who to name in his starting 11 to take on the Baggies, and his options at centre-back have increased with Thiago Silva’s return to fitness.
‘It is the best situation you can have as a manager, to be able to substitute players or replace players if they are injured or need a break without a loss of quality, without a lack of results,’ the head coach said.
‘That gives us a very good feeling with confidence in all of them, so tomorrow Thiago is available and back on track and everyone else is fit, and it is the same as for the goalkeepers, we have good competition and now we enter into such a crucial moment in the season, it is very important to have this selection. We need everybody now to be in top shape to compete on all levels.’
What may influence his selection tomorrow is some of the international schedules just completed by some of the players, especially with an early kick-off at Stamford Bridge.
‘Oli Giroud and Kurt Zouma for example, they had a game with five hours time difference and they took several flights to arrive back in the middle of the night in London, so this is clearly not the best preparation for a Saturday match at 12.30,’ Tuchel explained.
‘But we don’t break our heads too much about it, it is clear when you sign for a club like Chelsea that you have to adapt to situations like this, that you have to find solutions.
‘We had very good training sessions today and we will have the team together today in the evening for dinner and it is important that we show in these moments that we come together, because it is absolutely necessary to refocus for tomorrow as it is a big game ahead.’