Write off this Leeds team at your peril. If there was one message to take away from their win over Leicester on Sunday, it was that.
Last term, it was the threat of burnout that they had to eradicate and after three defeats to start 2021, alarm bells were being rung over their capabilities in the Premier League.
However, they put all of those concerns to bed with a ruthless and clinical display at the King Power Stadium.
When Harvey Barnes fired Leicester in front it looked as though it would be another difficult afternoon for the visitors. Though, when Stuart Dallas raced onto a lovely ball in behind from Patrick Bamford, positivity was injected into their performance.
Of course, Leeds still play lung-busting football even when they’re losing, but today was all about three points and a win that cemented why Marcelo Bielsa’s style of football is so desirable.
Bamford found the net himself with a sumptuous strike and then with a piece of selfless play, set up Jack Harrison for Leeds’ third strike.
Though, for all the intent going forward, it was a defender who dominated proceedings for Bielsa’s team. That happened to be Luke Ayling, a man whose performance was summed up by a knock to the head that required bandaging.
Ayling has had to play at centre-back on a number of occasions lately because of injuries to Leeds’ backline but he showed just how important he is when playing on the right on Sunday.
He was fabulous going forward but incredibly adept defensively, largely keeping Barnes out of the game. The winger was able to drift into a central area for his goal when he attacked down Leicester’s left, he was met by a wall in Ayling.
Barnes was unsuccessful with all three of the dribbles he attempted and prevailed in just three of his nine ground duels. That was due to Leeds’ rampaging right-back who was nothing short of exceptional.
The former Yeovil man won a mouth-watering 11 ground duels, winning a grand total of seven tackles throughout the encounter. He was able to stop Leicester’s tricky winger on several occasions, something that set the tone for Leeds’ improved performance.
Going forward, Ayling offered plenty. He started the counter-attack for their opening strike, laying the ball into Bamford who was then able to turn. The full-back had a shot of his own that was blocked while he was fouled on three occasions, using his body wisely to earn dead-ball situations for his team.
As far as performances go, this was a complete one from the 29-year-old. Ayling was an irremovable object on the right-hand side.