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Marcelo Bielsa singles out Leeds United individual’s recent efforts

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Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has paid tribute to Luke Ayling for his recent performances at centre back.

Ayling has found himself moved from his natural right-back position into the centre of defence in the past few games, and his efforts in that position have seemingly not gone unnoticed by his manager.

With Liam Cooper, Robin Koch and Diego Llorente all absent through injury lately, Leeds have been seriously short on numbers in the centre of their defence.

Those issues have seen Ayling move into centre back to help cover for those absences, and he has certainly made an impact.

The 29-year-old has helped Leeds keep back to back clean sheets in wins over Burnley and West Brom in the Whites’ last two games, producing some impressive performances in an unnatural position for him.

That is something that Bielsa himself clearly appreciates, and believes he could carry into other positions as well, as when speaking to Leeds Live about Ayling’s recent showings for Leeds, the Argentine said:  “When he plays as a full-back he also shines. As a centre-back he’s shining and I think if he played as a defensive midfielder he would also be efficient.”

Indeed, it seems Bielsa does rate Ayling’s ability and attitude highly, as he went on to add: “He’s a player who has qualities. 

“Normally he uses a big percentage of his virtues because he forces it upon himself and he has the character to take risks without making errors which is what distinguishes the best players.

“They chose well, they execute well and when they take risks they don’t make mistakes.”

Ayling has been quite simply outstanding for Leeds in recent weeks.

Any player would no doubt have impressed with the performances he has produced at centre back, and the fact that he is not a natural in that position just makes that all the more admirable.

Indeed, it seems as though Ayling is becoming an increasingly important asset for Leeds the more and more he plays, with his efforts earning him a place as one of the Whites’ best players of the past few seasons.

It is good to see that that is being recognised by Bielsa – and it should be noted, many others – and with that in mind, Leeds will no doubt be thankful there are still several years remaining on his contract at Elland Road.

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UCLan Sports Journalism graduate. Have been working for Leeds All Over since summer 2020, and can only be found writing on Football League World.