Luke Ayling has opened up on the Leeds United meeting with Marcelo Bielsa that helped inspire them to an electric run of form that leaves them only nine games away from promotion to the Premier League.
Leeds had a patchy start to 2020 and a loss at Nottingham Forest on February 8th allowed the rest of the Championship’s promotion contenders to close right in on the Whites.
However, on the back of that defeat in Nottingham, Leeds have been in electric form; unbeaten in six, five wins on the spin and just a single goal conceded in a 1-1 draw with Brentford.
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It wasn’t just luck that turned Leeds’ form around, though, as Ayling revealed to The Athletic that Bielsa’s post-match meeting gave them the belief that they could move out of that difficult period.
The right-back told The Athletic: “When we watched the game back with him, there were lots of good bits in it. If things had fallen our way or if we’d taken a chance early on, it would have been different. He put some stuff up on a whiteboard too, little pointers to help us, and it felt like a really good meeting.
“The players walked out of it and said, ‘Wow’. It was powerful stuff. We all felt it. That meeting told us that we might be in a bad run of form but we’re still playing good football. It only takes a chance to go in and results could be different. It was a big part of our turnaround. That and things that were said in the press, by people outside our club; it spurred us on.
“We went into the Brentford game knowing it was probably the hardest game to play when you’re on a run of results like we were but it was one of our best performances of the season. We played Brentford at their own game at their own place. So you come away thinking, ‘Why are we on a bad run when Brentford are flying?’”
Leeds went to Brentford and battled back from Said Benrahma’s opening goal, putting a major Kiko Casilla error behind them, to secure a 1-1 draw at Griffin Park thanks to Liam Cooper’s goal.
From there, Leeds haven’t conceded a goal in five games and have 15 points under their belt, catapulting them back to the top of the Championship table.
Now, after a break of three months, Leeds are in pole position for automatic promotion with nine games remaining.
They head to Cardiff City on Sunday, looking to stretch their winning streak, knowing the Premier League waits if they can hold it together.
It has been quite well documented that Marcelo Bielsa played a key part in helping Leeds turn their season around after the defeat at Forest.
His meeting clearly worked and, for Ayling, it has inspired him more than most, judging by his form on the back of that discussion.
Ayling has three goals in five games, as well as a place in the best defence in the Championship.
Leeds’ work isn’t done yet, though, and the task at the door of Ayling, Bielsa and Leeds is to stay focused and finish the job they’ve started.
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