Exclusive: Top pundit 'Flabbergasted' by Leeds defender after win v Villa
Noel Whelan has been “flabbergasted” by Luke Ayling’s transformation during Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United reign.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the ex-United striker explained how the defender, 29, was a willing but inconsistent right-back before Bielsa took over in 2018.
The former Bristol City man is now looking a force at Premier League level and delivered his latest outstanding performance in Friday night’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa despite moving across to centre-back due to injury.
Bielsa was unable to call upon skipper Liam Cooper and £18million new signing Diego Llorente, and selected a makeshift central defensive partnership of Ayling and Robin Koch.
Either side of them were converted wingers Stuart Dallas, who moved across to Ayling’s normal right-back position, and Ezgjan Alioski at left-back.
“It’s remarkable how much Luke Ayling has improved under Bielsa,” Whelan told Football Insider. “It just shows the huge impact a coach like him can have.
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“Under previous managers, Luke was a decent right-back and was a fine signing from Bristol City for what Leeds paid but you would never say he was capable of playing in the Premier League.
“I’m flabbergasted at how much better he has got over the last few years, even the last few months.
“He’s super-fit, runs all day, wins the ball, scores wonder goals, strong in the air, mobile, has timing with his challenges and interceptions.
“He can even play centre-back, which, as any right-back will tell you, is a completely different position with different demands.”