Newcastle United are continuing their march towards Champions League qualification following what’s been a remarkable first half of the season for Eddie Howe’s side, with the Magpies currently in third having lost just one Premier League game this season.
A key component in that rampant run of form has been the form of midfielder Joe Willock, with the former Arsenal man having started 17 of the Tynesiders’ 19 league games this season, scoring twice and laying on two assists in that time.
The Englishman may not have replicated the goalscoring hot streak that he enjoyed during his initial loan spell at St James’ Park back in 2021 – in which he scored in seven successive league games – although his all-round play has been particularly eye-catching, having also averaged 1.7 tackles per game this term.
The 23-year-old maestro has been “very impressive” in recent months, as per The Athletic’s Chris Waugh, having even earned notable praise from manager Eddie Howe of late, with the former AFC Bournemouth boss stating:
“I think he’s got really good raw ability. He’s very athletic and has an eye for goal, technically he’s very good and tactically he is improving,
“He has been excellent for me. I have forged an excellent relationship with him and I really like him as a person. I think the big thing with Joe is there’s a lot more to come. And I am excited about his future.”
Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth could well have found another midfield target who bares a striking statistical and stylistic resemblance to Willock, as per FBref, in the form of Conor Gallagher, with The Telegraph reporting that the Chelsea sensation could be an option for the northeast side this month.
The 22-year-old has endured a mixed season back in the first team at Stamford Bridge so far – with only one goal and one assist to his name in eight league starts – although the Epsom-born ace did flourish on loan at Crystal Palace last term, with eight goals and three assists in the top tier for Patrick Vieira’s side.
The £31m-rated playmaker has clearly already proven his quality in the Premier League, although his likeness to Willock should further showcase that he would be able to swiftly adapt to Howe’s side.
That comparison is illustrated by the fact that the current Blues man averages 1.36 dribbles completed per game over the last year as a marker of his dynamic quality on the ball, while the former Emirates youth asset is only just behind as he averages 1.16 in that same metric.
Equally, the latter man has illustrated his creative flair as he ranks in the top 9% in Europe among those in his position for progressive passes received, with that forward-thinking approach mirrored by Gallagher who ranks in the top 7% in that regard.
The duo are also seemingly committed to the cause and willing to put in a shift defensively, with the former Palace loanee – who averages 1.5 tackles per game in the league this term – ranking in the top 11% for blocks made, while Willock ranks in the top 5%.
Having lauded his current star’s “intensity“, Howe will likely love the chance to work with another relentless figure such as Gallagher, with the England international having been described as a “pressing machine” by Macclesfield’s Mark Duffy.
With Ashworth and co having reportedly been targeting the £50k-per-week monster during the summer window, it would appear an ideal time to finally get the Willock-esque asset through the door this month.
As talkSPORT pundit Ally McCoist has stated, Gallagher could simply be a “perfect” signing for Newcastle…