Leeds team news: £4.5m Bielsa favourite hasn't been 'at the same level' this season

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Leeds reporter Joe Donnohue reckons that Luke Ayling's performance levels have dipped from last season.

A knee problem has kept the right-back, valued at £4.5m by Transfermarkt, out of the last six matches in all competitions, but Donnohue doesn't believe that he's been at his best in 2021-2022.

What do the stats say about Ayling?

Following on from his impressive first campaign at Premier League level, where he started every game and played all but 20 minutes, the former Arsenal youngster kept his place during the early parts of this season.

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Ayling's campaign started in the best possible way when he scored a stunning first top-flight goal against Manchester United on the opening day, although it turned out to be bittersweet for the defender following Leeds' 5-1 defeat at Old Trafford.

He would start the next four league games before hobbling off late on at Newcastle with a knee problem, but according to WhoScored, Ayling has been the club's 13th best player this season with an average rating of 6.50.

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ENTER GIVEAWAY

Leeds' form has improved slightly in Ayling's absence, with Marcelo Bielsa's men collecting four points from as many games compared to just three in the first five with him in the team.

Donnohue recognised his importance to the side but has noticed his drop off in level compared to the previous campaign.

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What did Donnohue say?

He told GIVEMESPORT: "In the two of three games that he's played this season, aside from the Manchester United game, which was a separate case altogether, he maybe wasn't quite at the same level he was last year, but I still think Luke Ayling offers a lot to this team."

Is Ayling likely to come straight back into the XI?

Jamie Shackleton has been covering at right-back in Ayling's absence and the youngster has more than held his own despite playing out of position, racking up a WhoScored rating of 6.77, which is the third best in the Leeds squad.

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Did Luke Ayling score on his Premier League debut for Leeds United?

However, whilst Shackleton has done himself justice in the last four games, Ayling, 6ft1, is the more experienced of the two and his spell out of the team could be the catalyst for the 30-year-old to get back to his best, so once he's available, it wouldn't be surprising to see Bielsa put him straight back in.

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