Willy Gnonto line of questioning 'bad signal' for Leeds United says Javi Gracia after Fulham loss

Questions over Willy Gnonto’s absence from the starting line-up are a ‘bad signal’ for Leeds United according to Javi Gracia.
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The head coach’s team selection has come under increased scrutiny during a costly run of three straight defeats, the latest of which came at Fulham. A 2-1 loss owed much to goalkeeping errors by Illan Meslier, who flapped at a pair of crosses and allowed Harry Wilson and Andreas Pereira to find the net. But Leeds offered very little going forward in the first half at Craven Cottage, struggled defensively in the second half and although they forced a Joao Palhinha own goal, it felt likelier that Fulham would find a third than concede an equaliser.

Gracia’s decision to leave Willy Gnonto, so often a bright spark for Leeds in attack, on the bench until the 80th minute resulted in ironic levels of cheering from supporters when the teenager was eventually introduced. The Italian international is yet to start under Gracia since an international break that left him nursing an ankle injury. Gracia revealed on Thursday, however, that the winger was fit and available to start having been protected upon his return from the ankle issue.

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Speaking after the loss at Fulham the head coach indicated that being questioned over players left out of the starting line-up is indicative that things are not going well.

“I have to decide right about the players, other players in my opinion are doing well and they deserve as well,” he said.

"Of course today Patrick Bamford and Luis Sinisterra couldn't train in all the week because they had some issues in the last game. We couldn't start with them because they didn't train all week, only some minutes. We have different players in different situations and we have to manage that. You ask me about Gnonto today, I have to answer you about that but if some of you ask me about the players who don’t play it’s a bad signal for us, because you always miss the players who don't start. It’s a bad signal for us.”

Gnonto, however, remains an option to start against relegation rivals Leicester City on Tuesday, a game that will take on must-win status for the Whites. Gracia will have some big decisions to make for that fixture, not least in the goalkeeping department given Meslier’s recent problems. The goalkeeper has often been hung out to dry this season but his form has wavered of late and the mistakes at Craven Cottage did little to suggest his confidence is unaffected.

“All the players can start,” said Gracia.

LATE SUB - Willy Gnonto had to wait until the 80th minute to make his entrance in Leeds United's 2-1 defeat by Fulham at Craven Cottage. Pic: GettyLATE SUB - Willy Gnonto had to wait until the 80th minute to make his entrance in Leeds United's 2-1 defeat by Fulham at Craven Cottage. Pic: Getty
LATE SUB - Willy Gnonto had to wait until the 80th minute to make his entrance in Leeds United's 2-1 defeat by Fulham at Craven Cottage. Pic: Getty
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"I know the level of all my players and all of them can start. I consider all the options but I have to decide, which option is best for the team. I know Joel [Robles, number two keeper] very well from Spain but I have to decide.”