Martin Keown was full of praise for Leeds United defender Luke Ayling on BBC’s Football Focus.
Ayling was interviewed for the show and was asked about Marcelo Bielsa as well as his career trajectory, having left Sunday’s opponents Arsenal earlier in his career.
Former Arsenal man Keown spoke highly of Ayling and has been impressed by his debut season in the Premier League.
He said on Football Focus (13/02, 25:30), “I think Luke Ayling’s really a good example [of] when you’ve been at a big club at Arsenal, it’s not quite worked out for him and he’s come back with a vengeance the way he’s playing.
“He’s a really important player either at right-back or central defence and he’s full of energy a real determined player.
“You look at him now and think he’s actually something Arsenal could do with now.”
Encapsulates the Leeds spirit
Ayling’s performances have been overlooked a little this season and it is easy forget he has never played Premier League football before.
He has adjusted brilliantly to the top-flight and rarely has a bad game.
Of course mistakes have been made but that has partly been down to Ayling playing at centre-back. Neal Maupay’s winner for Brighton last month highlighting his poor positioning was an example of that.
However, he has done well in his natural right-back role, and he should be judged on those games.
Like Keown says, he provides tremendous energy in getting up and down the flank.
He is a rock at right-back and that allows Raphinha the freedom to venture forward and move more centrally – as he did for Patrick Bamford’s goal against Crystal Palace.
A return of 5.8 interceptions and 5.3 defensive duels won per game (WyScout) show how brilliant he has been.
Ayling is not even a defensive-minded defender, either, as he has 3.1 progressive runs per 90 minutes.
1.5 dribbles and one key pass per game (WhoScored) also show his effectiveness in attack, particularly as he has played as a centre-back in ten games this term.
That shows Keown’s Arsenal suggestion is not too much of a strecth. After all, we do sit above them in the table.
In other Leeds United news, ‘Clubs keeping tabs’ – Phil Hay opens up on Raphinha as big clubs reportedly circle Leeds star.