Vice-captain, loyal servant and possibly a club legend, Leeds United defender Luke Ayling is something of a hero on Elland Road.
But having racked up 217 appearances and secured a Championship winner’s medal during his time with the West Yorkshire squad, it might be time to move on.
There’s no denying that this season has been terrible, almost disastrous, as it looks like new manager Jesse Marsch has steered the Whites to safety, having been involved in the relegation dogfight for the past few months. .
A four-game unbeaten run, which includes wins over basement lads Norwich City and relegation rivals Watford, has seen Leeds move nine points clear of Burnley with six games to play.
Should Marsch replace Ayling this summer?
They may have.
However, the team remains the leakiest defense in the Premier League, having conceded a whopping 68 goals in their 32 outings, an average of 2.1 goals allowed per game.
And when you have to score three goals every week to stand a chance of winning, without last season’s top scorer Patrick Bamford, then it’s no wonder the Yorkshire men have found themselves in a precarious position at times.
It’s a bottom line largely unchanged since the rise from the second tier and there should be question marks as to whether big players like Ayling can consistently cut the mustard at this level.
Marsch should be ruthless this offseason in trying to secure a better option and that’s not his fault, but Ayling has looked out of place at times.
During the recent win over the Hornets, commentator and former Wales international David Phillips described the 30-year-old’s defense as “horrible”, while his average WhoScored rating of 6.56 on the season is bettered by eight other players. from Leeds right now.
Nobody gets dribbled more than Ayling, letting her man run 1.6 times a game and when you’re up against some of the best southpaws in the division, from Heung-min Son to Sadio Mane to Raheem Sterling. – He’s going to cause a lot of trouble for his defensive counterparts.
Former coach Marcelo Bielsa was a big fan of the full-back, especially as he was often able to slot him into the central half. He even once got lyrical about his talents in this regard. He told reporters:
“He was fast, he was agile, he defended well, he headed well, he handled the ball well, he transmitted serenity to the rest of the team”.
Just because he’s been with the club for the better part of six years doesn’t mean Marsch owes him anything. If a better option can be secured, then he should look to remove the Leeds favorite to become a successful manager at Elland Road.
The £35k-a-week ace just isn’t good enough for the big time, at least not on a team that shouldn’t be struggling to keep their place in the division. A ruthless decision, but the right one.
And in other news, Phil Hay drops Robin Koch update amid Leeds exit rumours…