Spotlight on Joe Gelhardt's Premier League debut, Rodrigo and Tyler Roberts as Marcelo Bielsa faces Leeds United decision

Joe Gelhardt was finally handed a Premier League debut in Leeds United's defeat at Southampton but Marcelo Bielsa admitted he would have needed longer to show his true talents.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 17th October 2021, 3:48 pm

Nineteen-year-old forward Gelhardt has been making a huge impact for United's under-23s and also England's youth sides but has had to be patient in waiting for first team outings at Elland Road.

The teen was handed his Whites debut in last month's Carabao Cup clash at Fulham in which he replaced Mateusz Klich in the 69th minute.

Gelhardt showed glimpses of what he can do in that fixture without getting seriously involved and the highlight was his thumping spot kick as the game was decided on penalties.

PREMIER LEAGUE DEBUT: For 19-year-old Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt in Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Southampton. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Even with Patrick Bamford out injured, Gelhardt had yet to feature since but that changed in Saturday's clash at Southampton in which he replaced Klich with 13 minutes left.

United's record signing Rodrigo is clearly viewed by Bielsa as United's second choice striker and the Spaniard lined up as the no 9 at St Mary's but could not produce anything and was replaced by Adam Forshaw in the 64th minute.

Tyler Roberts, who had been playing as a no 10, then pushed upfront but United still struggled to create chances like they normally do, the Whites clearly missing star winger Raphinha, Bamford and also Kalvin Phillips in the middle of the park.

The absences of Luke Ayling, Robin Koch and Junior Firpo meant United had six players out and a very young bench, from which Gelhardt was finally called for in the 77th minute.

But whilst the former Wigan Athletic player is clearly a hugely exciting talent, Gelhardt was unable to get involved and found himself well marshalled by the Saints defence.

Gelhardt had eight touches of the ball, attempting four passes of which two were accurate and one successful dribble.

The young forward fouled once and was dispossessed once but Bielsa admitted afterwards he would need longer on the pitch to show what he can do.

It now remains to be seen if Gelhardt can jump above both Roberts and Rodrigo in the pecking order, something he looks capable of in time based on recent displays.

Rodrigo had 22 touches against Southampton and 11 of his 12 attempted passes were successful but the Spaniard did not muster a single shot.

Both his attempted dribbles were unsuccessful whilst one of his two attempted tackles had the desired effect. Rodrigo was also dismissed twice.

Roberts had 33 touches and 14 of his 19 attempted passes were accurate.

He also managed one shot which was United's only attempt of the first half and the sole decent piece of attacking play, Roberts turning in the middle of the park and advancing forward before sending in a fair effort which flew just over the top right corner.

Roberts had one successful dribble and won two out of three aerial battles.

There was also one clearance, one interception and two out of his four attempted tackles being successful..

It all means Roberts was best of the three on the figures but if Bamford is still out injured, there is still a strong case to suggest Gelhardt should start or at the very least be brought on earlier in next weekend's hosting of Wolves.

Asked if he felt Gelhardt had enough time to make a difference at St Mary's, Biela admitted: "To consider if a player's had enough time to show his abilities, you need a lot more minutes than what he played today or what he's played up until now."

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Thank you Laura Collins