Leeds United right-back Luke Ayling won the FA Youth Cup with Arsenal, alongside Jack Wilshere, but the Gunners didn’t see a path to first-team football for him.
He ended up leaving to go to Yeovil and that put him on a path that’s finally led back to the Premier League with Leeds.
Incredibly, Leeds bought Ayling for just £200,000 from Bristol City, a mistake they have since acknowledged.
Writing in The Athletic, Phil Hay said, “Would Arsenal recognise the Ayling they knew, a decade after he swapped the plushest of Premier League academies for Yeovil Town and Huish Park?
“His hair is longer and the top knot came later but his face shows a familiar blend of in-game vigour and off-field relaxation (both emotions apparent in photographs of his formative years).
“The biggest change with Ayling is positional, the strong and steady central defender who morphed into a box-to-box wing-back. They did not see it coming in London. With few exceptions, they did not see it coming at all.”
Ayling has been putting in some brilliant performances for Leeds in the Premier League but lining up against Arsenal will be special for him.
Ayling might have thought playing in the Premier League was going to be beyond him after signing for Yeovil but he’s been another player who’s benefited hugely from the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa.
He’s put great faith in Ayling since he arrived and although our right-back occasionally gets caught too far upfield – most recently against Crystal Palace – he’s one of the first names on the Leeds team sheet now.
Ayling has been unlucky not to register any attacking returns so far this season – he’s behind only Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson for defenders making passes in the final third, and second only to Robertson for chances created by defenders. [WyScout]
Ayling would love to make his first attacking mark in the Premier League against his former side.
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