The future of Leeds United appears increasingly uncertain as we enter the closing stages of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign, with the Whites’ 2-1 loss at Arsenal on Sunday, coupled with Everton’s 2-1 victory over Leicester City, seeing Jesse Marsch’s side slip into the relegation zone with just three games left to play.
Indeed, these two results could very easily prove to be a sliding door moment in Leeds’ campaign, something that could render Luke Ayling’s red card for a cynical and unnecessary two-footed challenge on Gabriel Martinelli in the first half of the fixture as the moment that sealed the Whites’ fate.
This is an opinion Jamie Carragher clearly holds, with the former Liverpool centre-back telling Sky Sports (via talkSPORT): “What an idiot. The lack of professionalism from his teammates and what this could mean going forward.
“It’s not just going down to 10 men, it’s a disgusting tackle going in with two feet and reminds me of a tackle that Vinnie Jones did a long time ago. What he thinks is going to happen on the back of that, I don’t know. It was an obvious red card.
“To put your team down to 10 men, miss the last three games of the season, that might be the last game that Luke Ayling ever plays in the Premier League.”
As Carragher suggests, the 30-year-old’s subsequent three-match suspension could well mean the Arsenal loss is the last time the right-back features in a Premier League fixture for Leeds, however, with Phil Hay recently suggesting that Victor Orta could look to replace the defender this summer, Sunday could also have been the £35k-per-week Ayling’s last outing for the club altogether.
If this does prove to be the case, before Orta spends millions of pounds on a potential replacement in the summer transfer window, it would seem an extremely wise move for Jesse Marsch to take a closer look at 20-year-old Cody Drameh, as the youngster could well be a perfect successor to the 30-year-old full-back.
Indeed, the £900k-rated talent highly impressed over his 22 Championship appearances on loan at Cardiff City this season, helping his side keep six clean sheets, registering three assists and creating four big chances for his teammates, as well as making an average of 1.0 interceptions, 3.8 tackles, 2.0 clearances and winning 6.9 duels – at a success rate of 57% – per game.
These returns saw the £4.4k-per-week starlet who Glen Williams dubbed “such an exciting prospect” average a SofaScore match rating of 6.92, ranking him as the Bluebirds’ fourth-best performer in the English second tier.
As such, should Orta and Marsch indeed believe it is best to move Ayling onto pastures new this summer, they could save Andrea Radrizzani millions of pounds in transfer fees by finally handing Drameh a much-deserved shot in the first team.