Joe Gelhardt: Why are Leeds so keen on the Wigan forward?

Over the past week Leeds United have been heavily linked with the signing of Joe Gelhardt from Wigan with the club believed to have met with him and his agent yesterday for talks. The Liverpool born Striker who joined Wigan in 2013 made his Wigan debut in April 2019 against Birmingham City and has since gone on to play twenty times for Wigans first team, scoring one goal. 

Despite only scoring one goal for the first team, at youth level for Wigan and England he hasn’t struggled to find the net. Across his combined 24 appearances at U16s, U17s, and U18s football for England, he has found the net on eleven occasions (Transfermarkt). His skill set stretches beyond just being a poacher and in fact has played more as a number 10 or a wide player for Wigan. He likes to drop deep in order to find space and then look to pass the ball forward or look to work room for a shot on goal. Below is a great example of him finding space, shifting the ball onto his stronger left foot before finding the top corner.

He is only 5ft 10 and does lack real pace however has a stocky build and is hard to knock off the ball. Physically he is well developed and hasn’t struggled with the demanding conditions of championship football, as the clip below demonstrates.

Not only has he been able to hold his own physically, he’s showed that he’s got a creative side to his game, particularly when working the ball onto his left foot. He does well to roll the challenge here before finding a perfectly waited through ball, highlighting his vision and his strength. 

When you combine this with his dribbling ability and positivity on the ball, he’s hard to stop once he gets going. He’s only 18 but shows real confidence when on the pitch, as you can see here against Nottingham Forest. He picks the ball up on the right and his first thought is to drive into the box and wins a penalty for his side. 

All the above examples show exactly what Gelhardt is all about. For his age he has a great awareness of what’s around him and does well to bring his team mates into the game. In the 419 minutes he has played this season in the championship, has created 7 chances, completed 16 dribbles (53%) and made 60 accurate passes (67%). You would like to see his passing accuracy be higher but it is a small sample size and there are other aspects like Wigan’s style of play that would influence this. Although these stats aren’t amazing, he does play in a Wigan team that don’t score many and has mainly been used as a sub. If you take a look at his heat map for the season, you can see that despite mainly playing as a secondary striker or as a number 10, he likes to operate in the half space a lot.  

2019/20 Season heatmap via SofaScore

The half space is the area he managed to score his only senior goal from. He received the ball, turned really smartly before eventually smashing it past Hull City’s keeper.

In terms of areas for improvement, he’s only 5ft 10 which means that aerial he doesn’t win much and is more of a ball into feet striker, which of course suits Leeds as we don’t play long anyway. He is only 18 so he could still potentially grow, but even if he doesn’t I don’t think its something to be concerned with. Over time he’ll learn to find space away from players rather than directly competing with them. He is also not naturally fast, his acceleration is good but across 30-40 meters not as good. This is something I feel could be improved slightly with a tailored training program as we’ve seen with the first team, who under Bielsa are all 5-10 yards sharper. There are other areas like decision making, positioning and a few Wigan fans have commented that his fitness isn’t the best but all things will get better as he gains more experience.

Despite only playing just under 500 minutes for Wigan, his emergence has brought the attention of a lot of premier league clubs with Liverpool and Everton linked in the past and Leeds and Leicester currently heavily linked. Who ever lands the signature is getting themselves a talented player with a high ceiling at what is looking like a reduce fee due to Wigans finical problems. You would expect that he’d come in as an under 23 player given his little experience, but will train with the first team and look to make a few appearances in cup games or as a sub. I hope you enjoyed this article, its only a brief report as the footage available of Joe is limited. If the deal does happen, then I’ll look to do an updated article after I’ve seen Joe play more games.

Written by Thomas Wilson


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