Sunderland defender Luke O’Nien has jumped to the defence of on-loan Leeds United striker Joe Gelhardt, who is having a tough time at the Stadium of Light trying to cover key absentee Ross Stewart.
After Leeds made the £36million move to bring in Georginio Rutter, the club were inevitably going to sanction the exit of Joe Gelhardt on loan.
There was plenty of speculation about where he could end up, as a host of Championship clubs started to queue up for him, but he opted for Tony Mowbray’s Sunderland in the end.
How is Gelhardt doing at Sunderland?
Gelhardt’s move to the Black Cats looked like a great one when it first materialised, given the quality of football on display under Mowbray, and the amount of attacking talent around the attack.
However, with Gelhardt initially sought as the replacement for Ellis Simms after his Everton recall, that plan has been thrown out of the window with Ross Stewart ruled out for the rest of the season.
It means that Gelhardt has been forced into playing as a lone striker, often with his back to goal, the sort of role that saw him struggle often at Leeds.
So far, Gelhardt has been a regular starter for the Black Cats, scoring once and assisting twice as they sit 11th and six points outside the playoffs.
What has been said about him?
Despite his struggles in the final third to score more regularly, his teammate Luke O’Nien believes that there is so much more to the striker’s game that makes him a key asset.
Speaking to the Sunderland Echo, O’Nien said:
“Ok strikers are judged on goals but he brings way more than that. I think he’s been brilliant. I watch him, even when I play I watch him, I think his body position, the way he’s willing to receive it.
“You have to remember he’s an isolated man. The way we are playing we’re not as close to the goal maybe when you are playing off a big guy. We are further away from goal so he has to graft harder, he’s got to get the ball and hold it up.
“Me personally, I’m a big fan of him. I think he’s brilliant and the goals will come for him.
“We have to work harder to dominate the ball further up the pitch so he’s closer to the goal because he’s doing so much work from deep.
“I know a few people give him stick saying he’s not scoring but they can come to me and argue that because I think he’s brilliant.”
Will Leeds stay up?
It is fair to say that Gelhardt should be doing better in front of goal for Sunderland, but he is doing an awful lot of work that he did not join them to do.
Stewart’s absence means they are stuck with playing Gelhardt in a role that doesn’t suit him, and that is really unfortunate.
Had he been playing as a secondary striker or coming from out wide, we would be seeing a different player altogether.