By George Overhill

24th Apr, 2023 | 8:40pm

Leeds United: Phil Hay baffled by Willy Gnonto as Javi Gracia reign collapses amid Joe Gelhardt and Marcelo Bielsa verdict

Willy Gnonto is becoming to Javi Gracia at Leeds United what Joe Gelhardt was during the Marcelo Bielsa reign, believes a baffled Phil Hay.

Despite being arguably the star of the season prior to the manager’s arrival Gnonto has been relegated to fifth or sixth choice at his position, rarely starting and only coming off the bench late in games after various teammates.

The Athletic’s Hay, like most fans, can’t understand the situation and has likened it to current Sunderland loanee Gelhardt’s lack of opportunities under the Argentine manager.

Speaking on The Phil Hay Monday Club with the Square Ball (24 April, 11m 20s) Hay said of the possibility that Marcelo Bielsa chants during the 2-1 defeat at Fulham were directed at Gracia’s failings over the run of defeats: “People who were chanting can say for sure and will know better. There’s definitely an aspect of that in the last three games that what Gracia was doing well initially and what was working for him has gone.

“It’s just dropped to bits in such a spectacular way it’s quite difficult to fathom.

“In a lot of ways Willy Gnonto is becoming [Gracia’s] equivalent of Joe Gelhardt under Bielsa. This player who people want to see used, who they think can make a difference, the sort of player you think in difficult times you should be leaning on because of his wildcard streak and his ability to do something out of nothing, but actually is getting fairly limited minutes.”

Hay went on to suggest Gnonto is being brought on in games at a point where it is too much to ask of him to have any real impact, a situation he repeated was “hard to fathom”.


Gelhardt’s Leeds United career has been a story of false starts, and that is illustrated by the fact that he is now toiling at the Stadium of Light rather than Elland Road.

He didn’t even get the action that most supporters wanted under Bielsa’s successor Jessie Marsch, despite some match-winning involvements towards the business end of the season a year ago.

The American largely overlooked him this season, and he subsequently went on loan in January, but while he has struggled with untimely injuries it has never really made sense why there was so little faith in him at the club.

It is even less clear why Gracia doesn’t seem to be interested in Gnonto, given that his form earlier in the season was good enough to pique the interest of the likes of Chelsea, Juventus and Manchester City ahead of the summer.

When the Spaniard first came in and dropped the Italian teenager to the bench it seemed like it might be a sensible move to give him a break after becoming the prime outlet for the Whites over a number of weeks.

But with the results now dreadful and still Gnonto mostly languishes on the bench it seems counterproductive in terms of an ability to stay in the Premier League or to keep hold of him in the transfer market.

Gelhardt has yet to fully break through at Elland Road after the stop-start nature of his introduction to the first-team, and with the club still struggling they appear to be repeating the same issues with a new cast of characters.

In other Leeds United news, one Whites ace will be laughing in disbelief as he heads to the exit after what he has seen.