Gracia’s second shot at the Premier League got off to the perfect start as he earned a much needed win and clean sheet in his first game as Leeds manager.
It came in the shape of a 1-0 win at home to Southampton last weekend with Junior Firpo netting the game’s only goal in the 77th minute.
After a season of underperformance with Jesse Marsch at the helm, plenty of the Leeds squad will be looking to show more under Gracia.
Here, we look at two players who we can see thriving under new management after promising early signs…
Junior Firpo’s time to shine
It’s too early to say that Junior Firpo is hitting peak form at Leeds, but his prior performances meant it wasn’t hard for him to start impressing the fans.
He was poor since his £13million move in the summer of 2021, but the sacking of Marsch has sparked the left-back into life, no longer playing in a setup that has exposed him far more than it has played to his strengths, just as was the case under Marcelo Bielsa too.
With Gracia’s side reverting to a solid shape when losing possession, Firpo hasn’t looked overloaded out wide, and has offered a great deal in the final third too.
There is a long way to go before he can consider himself revived and playing the best football in his career.
His goal against the Saints might just be the trigger he needed, and the fans are right behind him.
Will Gracia keep Leeds up?
Could Jack Harrison recapture his best form?
Right from kick-off against Southampton, you could see a marked change in approach from Gracia in how the team would approach build-up play.
Jack Harrison and Willy Gnonto hugged the touchlines from the off, immediately giving the defence and sitting midfielders a sprawling canvas with which to open the game up.
Harrison’s best form for Leeds has come under Bielsa, but Gracia could yet unlock that same potential just on the fact that he’s now able to play wide, where he’s best.
It’s not rocket science to say it’s easier to play as a winger when you have more space to attack, while clinging to the wing means you have the whole game in front of you.
Harrison didn’t have an outstanding game against the Saints, but he got an assist as he linked up with Firpo, and already we see that a change to play wider means he’s getting more chances to create meaningful opportunities.