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Leeds United and Javi Gracia need to “shake things up” with particular problem area highlighted – Our View

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Luke Ayling has started the last 13 Premier League games for Leeds United, including all six under Javi Gracia without being substituted.

The defender was given a contract extension of an extra year back in February, taking his new deal to the summer of 2024.

Ayling is 31 and has been at the club since the summer of 2016 when signed under Garry Monk. He has gone on to become a fan favourite in that time, racking up 245 appearances for the club as well.

The Whites have had difficulties in deciding the first-choice in the right-back position, with Rasmus Kristensen signed last summer to provide competition for Ayling. The Dane had started the season, but Ayling has since made the position his own at Elland Road since being reinstated there.

Here, our writers Adam (Statto) and Kris (FA5) discuss whether the full-back should retain his place or if it is time for him to be rotated out by Gracia, with the game against Crystal Palace on the horizon…

It’s been that time for a while for Ayling.

A change is needed, but Kristensen hasn’t always been much better this season, either. What the Denmark international has over Ayling is more mobility and athleticism when defending on the back foot.

His recovery speed will be important in some games, especially up against tricky opponents such as Wilfried Zaha. Luckily for Leeds, the Ivorian is unavailable against them on Sunday.

Kristensen should still be in line for a recall, though. Leeds need to shake things up and he is a better defender than Ayling. The 31-year-old is more comfortable in possession and better when attacking, but has been a liability recently in a defensive sense.

The Arsenal game particularly highlighted his weaknesses as a defender. The right-back position is an issue to be addressed this summer, though. Neither of the first-team options fill me with confidence, and it is something to discuss as an area of improvement at Elland Road, for sure.

The big updated Luke Ayling quiz – Can Leeds United fans score 20/20?

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Did Ayling make any senior appearances for Arsenal?

One-v-one, I just don’t have confidence that Ayling can hold his own against some of the quality that we’re up against in the Premier League.

When he’s covered by his winger, he looks more accomplished, but so often teams look to hit us in transition, and that’s when Ayling’s positioning and speed get caught out.

Zaha not being available is obviously a massive boost, but it’s not as if Palace don’t have other players capable of threatening like that, and Kristensen is more more competent in these areas.

Just as we’ve seen Junior Firpo come on immensely in a better defensive shape, I’d expect Kristensen to have a similar improvement.

Ayling’s quality in the final third is more prominent than Kristensen’s but giving the Dane this chance against Palace is something Gracia needs to be considering.

Leeds v Crystal Palace predictions?

Leeds win

Leeds win



Crystal Palace win

Crystal Palace win

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