By Anthony Onifade

17th Mar, 2023 | 3:10pm

Javi Gracia made a costly Leeds United mistake against Brighton, he must now unleash Wilfried Gnonto v Wolves

It’s now time Leeds United boss Javi Gracia starts Wilfried Gnonto after his critical selection decisions against Chelsea and Brighton last weekend.

The 19-year-old Italian international has quickly risen to prominence at Elland Road through his spectacular individual performances since his move from FC Zurich last summer, going on to become one of the club’s most prized assets.

Former manager Jesse Marsch handed the 19-year-old his Premier League debut at the end of October in the 2-1 win over Liverpool and he’s proven a guaranteed starter scoring four goals when starting every game since then.

Gracia decided to end the forward’s run of starts league starts by placing him on the bench in the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea and once again used him from the bench against Brighton last time out.

The two games Gnonto has been benched for have not led to the wins the Whites desperately need. As The Athletic journalist Phil Hay stated [The Phil Hay Show,13 March, 17m:10s] during the week, the Italian magician is an “influential” attacking cog in the Leeds camp.

Gracia’s decision has indeed led to major criticism from pundits with former Tottenham Hotspur and England goalkeeper Paul Robinson claiming that the Spaniard probably “doesn’t fancy” Gnonto and his decision to bench the club’s best-attacking threat was not a good call.

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Indeed the 19-year-old has been a real right spark for Leeds this season in what has been another disappointing campaign on the whole, and it’s no wonder he’s already attracting interest from his homeland having just been a Leeds first-teamer for all of six months.

He’s proven to be a sensational addition pointing to the club’s future but they may not have a future in the Premier League if Gracia continues to go against the majority in the Leeds camp.

And the player may not even have an Elland Road future if he feels he isn’t valued by the club – and that is dangerous territory losing a player of his class and potential so soon.

Gnonto has been the club’s most fouled player alongside Brenden Aaronson [WhoScored] and he also ranks highly when it comes to key passes, dribbles and shots per game. He ranks fourth amongst the whole squad for shot-creating actions per 90, first for carries into the final third and 1st for goal-creating actions per 90 amongst players to have played over 10 games this season.

With key man Jack Harrison coming in for some criticism of late, it could be time for Gracia to unleash the little Italian maestro back into the starting XI.

Whether or not Gracia decides to unleash Gnonto from the start against Wolves remains to be seen but the stats do back up Robinspn’s statement that the fleet-footed forward is indeed the “best-attacking threat” at the club.

So what’s the issue, Gracia?

In other Leeds United news, the club may now face a losing battle to keep their star player at Elland Road beyond the summer transfer window.

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