By George Overhill

30th Sep, 2022 | 6:47pm

Willy Gnonto to be in Leeds United squad for Aston Villa after impressing Jesse Marsch

Willy Gnonto will be in the Leeds United squad for the Premier League match against Aston Villa on Sunday after impressing manager Jesse Marsch.

The Whites return to action after nearly a month off when Steven Gerrard brings his side to Elland Road (2 October), and the deadline day arrival is in line for his first taste of the top flight.

The final day of the window was a mess for United after moves for senior forwards broke down, so the teenager’s January transfer was brought forward at the last minute, but his new American manager has already seen enough to get him involved in the first team on match day.

Speaking to the media ahead of the return to action on Friday (30 September) Marsch said, via the club’s YouTube channel (10mins): “I can say that he has pleasantly surprised all of us, and in almost every way… You can see even in that video [of the pair meeting] his humbleness and his maturity.

“Then on the pitch he’s been fantastic. I thought he was very good in the [under]21s match against Southampton (16 September). He will be in the squad this weekend, and we think he can play a big role for us now.

“We targeted him and identified him, but more for future windows and not exactly this one. But the fact that we’re able to start the process early I think is really advantageous for everyone.”

Growth

Gnonto arrived under pressure with fans expecting the likes of Cody Gakpo or Bamba Dieng, but with both pursuits falling apart in embarrassing fashion Leeds were forced to turn to one for the future right away.

He started in the 6-2 under-21s defeat of Southampton and then added to his full international caps for Italy in the Nations League games over the past fortnight.

His cameo against England in Milan was very encouraging, and while his start against Hungary wasn’t as successful he looks to have done enough to prove he is more than a Premier League 2 player already.

If he can join the senior rotation and become that third or fourth option up front that the supporters were crying out for over the summer it will be a major bonus, since he wasn’t slated for that just yet.

Patrick Bamford remains number one but struggles to stay fit so often that it is difficult to rely on him for long periods, and Joe Gelhardt’s progress continues to be stop-start, as much through the coach’s decisions as his performances.

Rodrigo had been in strong scoring form before he was also knocked out with a dislocated shoulder, but is back now.

Injuries are a constant at Elland Road over the last year so Marsch can never have too many options, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Gnonto get some game time in the coming weeks.

In other Leeds United news, Sonny Perkins has also impressed in recent weeks with a 100% scoring run.