Leeds United forward Willy Gnonto opened his account for the club last night in brilliant fashion as he put in another superb display under Jesse Marsch.
The Whites were criticised for their transfer business in the summer as they failed to sign the striker that this side needed, while letting Dan James go without seemingly signing a senior replacement.
Willy Gnonto cost Leeds a reported £3.8million to bring from FC Zurich in the summer, and it’s fair to say that both that fee and Jesse Marsch’s playing down of his starting credentials have drastically undervalued his importance to this side already.
A brief cameo off the bench at Liverpool demonstrated his ball retention quality and ability to conjure chances out of very little, and he did the same off the bench against Bournemouth, setting up his partner in crime, Crysencio Summerville for the winner.
Four consecutive starts have followed since and it’s completely deserved, because each time, he has totally justified his presence in the side at the tender age of 19.
His latest display a real show that he can grab games by the scruff of the neck from the get-go.
A 2-2 draw against West Ham brought the Italian’s first goal, again linking with Summerville to fire a powerful weak-footed strike beyond a rooted Lukasz Fabianksi.
It came as one of his two shots, both on target, as he could have added to his tally shortly after the goal, when he volleyed Tyler Adams’ lofted pass, only to be comfortably gathered by the Irons stopper – but an attempt demonstrating Gnonto’s confidence to try that sort of thing (stats via Wyscout).
Gnonto was playing as a very versatile figure in the Leeds trident behind Rodrigo, and it showed in how dynamic he was on the ball, able to beat his man wherever he was, completed five out of seven dribbles as well as being fouled three times, while completing two progressive runs too.
67% passing accuracy might not look the most aesthetic, but with the risks he was taking, to be effective in the final third that often shows a player with more refined ball retention than a lot of players in this squad with plenty of years on the 19-year-old.
Is Gnonto a guaranteed starter now?
Having a player of that attacking flair and excitement can often come with the drawback of their lack of defensive awareness as a teenager, but Gnonto starting shows Marsch is more than happy with how he contirbutes, and that manifested in his contributions against the ball too.
Gnonto competed in 20 duels during the game, winning an impressive 13 of them against a very physical and towering West Ham defence and midfield, while winning two of four aerial duels – an even more impressive feat when you look at the height in that West Ham defence.
Leeds face Cardiff City next in the FA Cup and perhaps it’s a chance for Marsch not to play this kid in particular, because he simply has to start every Premier League game possible, and it’s not too much of a stretch to say he’s arguably been Leeds’ most influential attacker since his debut – alongside best bud Summerville.