Has summer signing proved to be Leeds' surprise of the season?

Stuart Dallas, Luke Ayling and Souleymane Doukara of Leeds United celebrate at the end of the game

Leeds United are currently inside the Championship play-off places, and Luke Ayling's form has arguably been one of the key reasons for their success.

Luke Ayling of Leeds United clears the ballLuke Ayling of Leeds United

When Leeds United announced that they had signed Luke Ayling from Bristol City, the Bristol Post suggested that the Robins had pulled off a good piece of business with the defender set to be nothing more than a rotation option for Lee Johnson.

Whites fans would have been forgiven for feeling uninspired by the acquisition based on that assessment, but with nearly a full season at Elland Road now under his belt, it is fair to say that it is Leeds who pulled off the coup.

Ayling has been a regular in Garry Monk's side this term, making 35 appearances in the Championship to date, with only suspensions denying him the chance to appear in every game he has been available for.

The 25-year-old has a case to be considered the Championship's best right-back this season, helping the Whites keep a defensive record that should see them comfortably concede fewer goals by the end of the campaign than they have let in in any season over the previous decade. 

Leeds' Ronaldo Vieira celebrates scoring their third goal with Luke Ayling

He has also proved to make an impact going forward also, having contributed three assists for the Whites. 

What has also made Ayling so valuable is that he has shown that he can provide the depth at centre-back that Leeds have needed given that they have just first-choice options.

General view inside the stadium before the game - Elland Road

It was Ayling playing alongside Kyle Bartley in the middle when Leeds claimed a stunning victory over Derby in January, and he also performed extremely well in the role when he came on in the EFL Cup tie against Liverpool at Anfield earlier in the campaign.

The defender has arguably been one of Leeds' best players this season, and it seems that few would have expected that to be the case when he departed Ashton Gate in the summer. 

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