Presenter Conor McGilligan has backed Leeds United sensation Wilfried Gnonto to thrive under the management of Javi Gracia.
What will Javi Gracia bring to Leeds United?
Gracia has been appointed as the replacement for Jesse Marsch, who was sacked at the start of this month with Leeds hurtling towards the relegation zone.
Last seen in the Premier League with Watford, who the Spaniard managed to an 11th-place finish as well as reaching the FA Cup final, Gracia had since landed an unsuccessful role at Valencia before a brief stint at Al-Sadd in Qatar.
McGilligan believes he is someone who could bring more tactical flexibility to Elland Road than his predecessor, pointing out that Gnonto could find similar success under the coach as winger Gerard Deulofeu did at Watford.
Is Gnonto Leeds’ most important player?
Speaking on the One Leeds Fan Channel, McGilligan drew comparisons in style between the two players, and highlighted the fact that Deulofeu played his best football under Gracia.
He said: “He can move to a 4-3-3, a 3-5-2, a 4-2-2-2 – very, very flexible. And I keep touching on Deulofeu, and the reason I keep touching on Deulofeu – obviously formerly of Everton and Barcelona before he went to Watford – was because this [under Gracia] was the best football he played in his career.
“And this is what I see for someone like Willy Gnonto in terms of a style of player who has excellent balance, can use both feet, is very tricky, [has] a low centre of gravity, and someone who I am comparing to Deulofeu.
“Gracia said in 2018 when Deulofeu came back from injury, ‘I am happy to move to a 4-3-3, Gerard gives us the option to do this,’ so it does give you that indication that he would move from different tactics, which is great to see that we’re not just going to be so reliant on one way of playing, which we have done previously.”
Could Javi Gracia unlock the Leeds attack?
With the likes of Gnonto, Crysencio Summerville and Luis Sinisterra in the Leeds ranks, there is potential for the attack to be transformed in a similar way Watford’s was under Gracia, with one of the wide players perhaps playing up front alongside Patrick Bamford or Georginio Rutter.
Leeds have scored 28 times in 23 league games, which is the most in the bottom six by some margin, highlighting the potential of their squad to explode in attack if given the right structure, and if Gnonto can become a creative force similar to Deulofeu, Leeds may have a much better chance of survival.
Deulofeu scored 13 times and provided eight assists under Gracia, which included a stunner to send Watford to the FA Cup final, and it could be argued that Gracia helped the Spaniard unlock his flair and creative potential by being flexible with his tactics.
The appointment of Gracia, although far from a well-managed situation, could turn out to be a masterstroke if he is able to quickly increase the output from the players at his disposal, though whether Gnonto can flourish under his guidance remains to be seen.