Thomas Tuchel explains why Conor Gallagher will not play against Chelsea at Wembley this weekend, as preparations for the London derby FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace hot up…
The 22-year-old midfielder is enjoying an outstanding season on loan in south London (he has eight goals and five assists to his name) and it is no surprise our opponents on Sunday asked permission to keep him in their side for the game. However as Tuchel makes clear, they knew when the loan was agreed that this would be the case should this situation arise, although he appreciates why Palace and Gallagher are not happy.
‘I had the chance to speak to Conor and I could also see his frustration,’ Tuchel revealed.
‘We met some weeks ago, after the international break. We ran into each other by coincidence in a restaurant and we had a chat. The subject came up and I apologised because I know how competitive he is and I like him a lot. I know his character very well. It was a pleasure to have him here in pre-season.
‘That's the way it is. We play to win the game and the rules were clear when we made the loan. I can totally understand Patrick Vieira and also the disappointment of Conor of course, but these were the rules when we did the loan and we don't want to suffer from our rules.’
Mixing it up with Chelsea youth
One player who will be able to line up for the Eagles against us is Marc Guehi, who like Tino Livramento last weekend at Southampton is a Chelsea Academy product playing against his former club having been sold last summer. Tuchel discussed the decisions for those players to leave permanently rather than go on loan like Gallagher.
‘It's a decision we took together and we are happy about these decisions,’ he stated. ‘You cannot go back and reflect because at this point where we took the decision it was the right thing to do given the circumstances.
‘All the time it is very individual decisions because for Tino Livramento for example, we had a plan and we preferred a loan but he saw his future to go and the situation was then better to agree to the sale.
‘For Marc it's a fantastic development and it's very hard or maybe even impossible to say now if we kept him would he have been better, would he have been worse, would he have been the same because maybe he needed exactly that.
‘Maybe he needed a change of environment, maybe he needed a different club, maybe he needed a bigger role and more minutes to develop his full potential.
‘It just tells you over and over again that if you trust younger players and if you have a role for them, they can on a very regular level match your expectations or even overperform.
‘It's nice to see there are so many Chelsea players out there in every league and we are very well aware of it. It's always also nice to play against them and to see them develop.’
There will certainly be no let-up in Academy players having the possibility to establish themselves at Chelsea according to Tuchel, with the current team proving a great example of how to do it.
‘I think it makes the club very special and it makes every team in the world very special if you have the mix between world-class players, between big personalities from abroad, from outside of the club, and the mix with the Academy boys.
‘It’s very important also with Academy boys to match the level, to realise the level of commitment, of professionalism from the players who come from other clubs, who bring the best of their cultures.
‘It's very important for our youngsters to accept that mix and to accept the challenge and then it can be very special, because this is what makes teams special - that there are players from the Academy in it.’
Crystal Palace analysed
‘The constant level on which they are playing, the high level of energy, the high level of commitment. They're playing throughout the season in the same way.
‘I feel a big belief. It's a real team effort. It's a real team playing very close to the coach, calming the club down which was not easy with so many players leaving before the season.
‘They did a fantastic job, created a very energetic team, full of individual quality and a very dangerous counter-attacking team and a committed group.
‘It was very tough to play against them in the league and this will be a tough one because of course for us but also for them it is a huge opportunity to play at Wembley. We need to be very well prepared to control the counter-attacks, to control the individual quality, to control the dribbling and play with the same level of intensity like Crystal Palace.
‘They can create a certain atmosphere, especially at Selhurst Park but for sure also in Wembley.’