It’s no secret that Luke Ayling isn’t at his best for Leeds United, with the right-back struggling to rediscover his best levels following an injury in late 2018.
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa has kept faith with his right-back, though, with Ayling featuring regularly over the Christmas period and into 2019.
That’s partly due to Bielsa’s lack of options, with things now beginning to change, as Leeds welcome back bodies from the treatment room.
Stuart Dallas has featured on the bench in the last two games – replacing Ayling in last night’s defeat to QPR – whilst Loftus Road was also the venue for Gaetano Berardi’s return from injury.
In addition to that, Jamie Shackleton is pushing Ayling for a starting berth, with Bielsa having options to replace the 27-year-old, if he feels that’s the right route to take.
For Ayling, the pressure is mounting and he will realise the importance of finding form if he wants to play a big part during the run-in.
We know he’s a good player, who suits Bielsa’s system. His form prior to his injury in October was superb, with Ayling bombing beyond Pablo Hernandez on the right and even scoring his first goal for the Whites.
However, his personal slump is matching Leeds’ slump as a team and plenty are calling for his head.
Leeds entertain West Brom on Friday, the side’s third game in six days. Ayling is one he might consider dropping, but only due to his fresh options emerging from the bench.
Dallas and Shackleton are attack-minded options, whilst Berardi would add some defensive stability to the right of Leeds’ defence against a good West Brom side.
Ayling has had huge amounts of faith placed in him, but you’ve got to question whether Bielsa would’ve stuck by him had Leeds been at full strength.
As we edge towards the West Brom game, now might be the time that Ayling’s place is most under threat.