MOT View: One Leeds player stands head & shoulders above rest with stunning display v West Ham
Leeds United fell to a disappointing defeat against West Ham at Elland Road on Friday night in what was arguably the worst performance by Marcelo Bielsa’s side this season.
Mateusz Klich – after missing his initial penalty – put the Whites ahead with an early spot-kick after Patrick Bamford was hauled down by Hammers goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
However, Tomas Soucek and Angelo Ogbonna headed in goals from set-pieces to send David Moyes’ side up to fifth in the Premier League and leave Leeds pondering where their inconsistent start to the campaign will take them.
It’s hard to point out who had a good game for Leeds because so many of Bielsa’s men struggled and vastly under-performed against West Ham.
But the stand-out, for us, was easily Luke Ayling, who was head and shoulders above the rest of his team-mates while filling in at centre-back.
Ahead of the game, Robin Koch and Diego Llorente were ruled out due to injury so that left Bielsa to shuffle his defence.
Ezgjan Alioski dropped to left-back, Stuart Dallas moved to right-back and Ayling slotted in at centre-back alongside Liam Cooper.
According to stats by WyScout, Ayling completed 89 per cent of his passes against Leeds while also completing 57 per cent of his long-range passes. He also found a team-mate with 13 of his 20 passes into the final third.
Leeds always had a way to play the ball out of the defence thanks to Ayling and his ability to pick out a player in white. Unfortunately, those ahead of him meant his passes rarely went anywhere.
Defensively, Ayling was very impressive.
He won 13 interceptions, 14 recoveries and managed to make four clearances.
The former Bristol City defender was unfortunate to be on the losing team that conceded two goals with numbers like that.
It feels like a long time ago when Ayling was being criticised for almost every single performance he had in the Championship.
But Bielsa has turned him onto one of the Premier League’s most productive defenders with stats by WyScout showing that Lille’s Sven Botman  is the only player in Europe’s top five leagues that has completed more progressive passes than Ayling .
If we had a team of 11 Ayling’s on Friday night, the result might have been different but at least we know that while Koch and Llorente are out, Cooper has a reliable defender who can play alongside him at centre-back.
In other Leeds United news, Gabriel Agbonlahor mocked Bielsa after the loss to West Ham.