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Klich, Firpo, Gnonto feature: 5 Leeds United talking points following Papa John’s Trophy exit

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Leeds United‘s Under-21 side crashed out of the Papa John’s EFL Trophy on Tuesday, losing on penalties to Crewe Alexandra after a goalless draw.

Leeds fielded strong sides throughout the competition, with some of their most senior academy players in the thick of the action and a string of first-team names involved as well.

The competition gave the development squad players a chance at playing men’s football. However, they will not have the chance to impress further at this level as the draw saw them finish in third in their group, with Bolton top, and Tranmere Rovers in second.

What are some of the major talking points following their exit to Crewe? We take a look at FIVE here.

Strong XI

Michael Skubala yet again played a strong side for the fixture, with Mateusz Klich, Junior Firpo, and Joe Gelhardt involved among others.

First-team players has been a theme consistently in the development squad this season, in the EFL Trophy as well as league games, too. Players returning from injury to build fitness, or not involved much in starting games for the senior squad.

Klich, for example, has started only one league game, but is consistently used off the bench. Against Crewe he completed the full 90 minutes to maintain his fitness and sharpness.

Penalty horror show

Leeds missed four penalties in the goalless draw at Crewe and had to settle for third in Group B.

The video went viral online, with Sky Sports Football’s official Twitter account mocking the amount of missed penalties after the game ended level.

Hopefully something the players learn from as their careers progress, it didn’t make for good viewing.

Valuable experience

The biggest upside of the tournament is players challenging themselves at a higher level and gaining experience of what is men’s first-team football; but also, experience of high pressure environment’s such as penalty shoot-outs.

The physicality and intensity is a higher level, as Darko Gyabi touched on in the 5-3 win over Tranmere last month, speaking to LUTV he said:

“I think it’s the closest thing to first-team football for us. I think it’s a good challenge for us and we’ve done well tonight. Definitely a challenge to play against players like that.

“It’s an opportunity to show how good we are. There’s a physical aspect as well to it

He missed the vital penalty, but has impressed throughout from both a technical and physical standpoint. If players such as him can handle mistakes in key moments such as the shoot-out, then it will stand them in good stead for years to come as they age into full professionals.

Quiz: 15 questions about Leeds United’s Darko Gyabi – Can you score 100%?

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Where did Leeds sign Gyabi from?

Wilfried Gnonto in limbo?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 29: Crysencio Summerville of Leeds United celebrates after scoring their team’s second goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United at Anfield on October 29, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Gnonto, 18, is a full Italian international, but he remains in limbo at Leeds United.

He came on and impressed against Liverpool in the 2-1 win at Anfield, yet found himself back amongst the Under-21 side for the game against Crewe. However, he didn’t manage the full 90, and was subbed on 62 minutes.

His cameo was enough to make him more of a first-team player in most fans eyes, but the message sent by demoting him down a level cannot be a good one for his confidence.

He is a player beyond youth team level, and needs a platform to prove that, despite there being some major upsides for players of his age group to play in the EFL Trophy.

Gnonto is a player who has played first-team football 74 times for FC Zurich, and the experience at a level lower than that? Simply not needed or as beneficial as it is to others.

Players beyond the level

Crewe manager Alex Morris spoke about the quality of the team put out by Leeds, claiming it would compete at a much higher level given the players involved. Via the club’s official website he said:

Usually these games are for an U21s side to gain positive experience of playing against senior pros, but this was the other way around.

“We had a really young team, a couple made their debuts, and they put out the strongest U21s team I’ve ever seen fielded in this competition.

“Their team could probably compete in the low-end Championship, top-end League One.”

However, it is not just the first-team players, but players like Gyabi, Sonny Perkins, and Cody Drameh who have proved they are beyond the development squad level, and perhaps a loan or two would be more beneficial to both Leeds and some of these players as well.

This is especially necessary now the Whites have no more games in the EFL Trophy remaining, with only Premier League 2 Division 2 games, Premier League fixtures or senior cup ties to play in now. Food for thought for Jesse Marsch and his staff.

Should Gelhardt be loaned out in January?

Yes

Yes

No

No

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