Leeds United are apparently interested in signing Middlesbrough’s Daniel Ayala.
It may seem a bit strange for Leeds to be targeting a centre-back in January after conceding just nine goals in their first 16 league matches, but recent reports have linked them with a potential move for the Spaniard.
Despite their current defensive record being absolutely brilliant, there would be a degree of sense if a deal were concluded.
Gaetano Berardi’s poor disciplinary record has been well-documented, and Liam Cooper’s injury concerns don’t seem to be subsiding after withdrawing from the Scotland squad due to a groin tear earlier this week.
Leeds could probably do with a new defender, but is the 29=year-old Ayala the right man for the job? We asked our team of writers to give their verdicts on whether or not the Spaniard would be a good signing for the Elland Road outfit.
Here’s what our writers have said about the situation.
“Daniel Ayala would be an inspired move for Leeds and one they simply have to make if the chance is presented to them. The Whites’ lack of depth in defence is well documented and simply adding bodies would be a good idea full stop. However, if it’s a proven Championship defender with an ingredient they’re lacking, it makes even more sense.
“Leeds have conceded 44% of their goals from set-pieces this season with a lack of aerial threat dictating that. The Middlesbrough defender wins 3.9 aerial duels per game, including one outing where he won as many as ten. Compare that to the Leeds side and only Liam Cooper (4.3 per game) has won more. You then have to look towards Ben White, who isn’t particularly renowned for his heading.
“The Spaniard is a colossus in the air and would bring added assurance to a backline that is already flourishing. Ayala’s contract expires next summer which makes a possible deal in January a cheap one. Even if they had to wait until next summer to pick him up on a free transfer, it would be a wise move.
“With Gaetano Berardi still somewhat of a liability, earning seven red cards in his time at Elland Road, adding extra security to their backline is exactly what they need. Orta must act quickly.”
“Leeds’ reported move for Daniel Ayala would be the right one for many reasons.
“Firstly, Marcelo Bielsa lacks considerable options in defence, which seems daft considering his most tried and tested formation in his managerial career involves a back three – something that, at times, he hasn’t been able to deploy for this very reason.
“Leeds only really have three centre-backs on their books and one has now gone down in the perpetually crocked Liam Cooper. One other is a loan star in Ben White and then there’s Gaetano Berardi, who fans have often swung for due to his poor performances.
“Another factor is mentioned above – White is only on loan and because he’s impressed so much this term – averaging a rating of 7.22, which is only second to Kalvin Phillips in the entire squad – he is sure to go back to Brighton and either get a chance or be sold to another club for a hefty price.
“By clinching Ayala they not only add options for this season (if he comes in January) but too, he could be White’s replacement down the line.
“The Spaniard offers plenty of Championship experience having surpassed over 200 appearances in the division, and at 29 years of age, he’s entering his prime years at centre-back so Bielsa can get at least a couple more years out of him as they look to return to the promised land at the earliest opportunity.”
“This would appear to be a very sensible move from Leeds, as there are a few factors at play which makes Daniel Ayala the type of signing they should make.
“He has a wealth of experience at this level and even has a promotion under his belt after helping Boro into the Premier League, a campaign that was mostly built on the team’s defensive qualities, with 31 goals conceded in 2015/16.
“Even this year with Boro struggling in the relegation zone they have conceded only 21 goals from 16 league games, and Ayala is a reason for that.
“With a lack of options in defence it is important that Bielsa adds more leadership and know-how to the backline, particularly if he envisions playing 3-5-2 or if Liam Cooper gets injured, which could leave youngster Ben White more vulnerable.”
“I think that Leeds should definitely be looking to sign Daniel Ayala.
“The Spanish defender has proven his quality at this level after earning promotion with Middlesbrough back in 2016 while playing over 3000 minutes in a team that only conceded 32 goals all season.
“Leeds could probably do with a taller defender to add an extra dynamic to their backline as their only weakness seems to be from set-piece situations at the moment.
“Whether or not the Whites can get this deal done or not remains to be seen, but they should look at the possibility of bringing him in if he is indeed available.”