Former Leeds defender Dom Matteo has broken down the 4-1 defeat to Crystal Palace, pointing to Luke Ayling as a player who struggled in particular to cope.
The high pressing and front-foot style of play that we’ve adopted under Marcelo Bielsa has stood us in good stead for the Premier League against more sides than in the Championship.
However, a problem that we knew we’d face is that there will still be sides in this division happy to let us have more possession, but with better quality all over the pitch than the likes of Wigan and QPR.
Leeds have faced two of those sides successively in the Premier League just before the international break and were on the wrong end of 4-1 scorelines on both occasions.
The Whites were swiftly brushed aside by Leicester City last week as Jamie Vardy and co broke with such pace that we couldn’t cope in transition from attack to defence.
We lost in a similar heavy fashion straight after against Crystal Palace, where mistakes and defensive imbalance were rife once again.
Eberechi Eze grabbed the headlines for his stunning goal and allround great performance, but another thorn in our side was Wilfried Zaha, as one would imagine.
Tasked with man-marking the trickster, Luke Ayling struggled throughout the game as Zaha caused threats all match, and setup Jordan Ayew’s goal that put the game out of reach at 4-1.
Picking up the ball just inside Leeds’ half, Zaha was unchallenged as he drove towards the box, before laying the ball on a plate for Ayew, with Ayling nowhere to be seen.
Writing in his Yorkshire Evening Post column, Dom Matteo commented on Ayling’s day to forget. He stated: “I’ve been one of Luke Ayling’s biggest supporters and he has been outstanding for Leeds, before promotion and since, but up against a top line player like Wilfried Zaha, he just didn’t look comfortable defensively.
“Maybe he’s still looking to get forward when he should be taking up good defensive positions.
“I would be thinking just do my job today, defend, don’t give Zaha a chance but we just didn’t get tight to him. If he gets space and time he’ll kill you and he was a real thorn in our side.
“You know what you’re going to get with Zaha, he has quality and we struggled with him.
“I don’t care if you’re playing against Liverpool, City or Palace, if you don’t do the basics well you will be found out.”
Not many players have much joy against Wilfried Zaha, especially when he’s in the inspired form that he’s showing this season when given a partner such as Eze.
Our attacking full-backs were always going to leave us exposed but on the balance of it, it’s a necessary risk to make our style work in the final third.
Ayling has been brilliant this season and if his first off day comes three months into the Premier League season, then he’s doing something right.
He managed to keep Sadie Mane quiet, so it’s not as if Ayling can’t cope with the pace of top flight wingers, it was just a game plan that played into Zaha and Palace’s hands.