Just a few weeks ago, you’d have been hard pushed to find a Leeds United fan who did not agree with director of football Victor Orta’s claims that Luke Ayling is good enough to play in the Premier League.
“I believe that if he continues to improve the way he has in the past 18 months, then he will be a top flight footballer,” Orta told Leeds’ official website of the right-back earlier this month.
Signing for a pocket change fee of £750,000 from Bristol City in 2016, per The Express, many a Leeds supporter had anointed Ayling as one of the club’s most inspired bargain signings of the last decade.
The 26-year-old’s eternal consistency could perhaps be summed up best by pointing out that he has started 57 of a possible 61 Championship fixtures since swapping The Robins for The Whites over a year ago.
In recent weeks, however, Ayling’s previously imperious form has mirrored that of the team overall. After an excellent start to 2017/18 which had fans dreaming once again of promotion, Leeds have collapsed.
A 2-1 defeat to Derby County on Tuesday means Leeds have now lost three straight games at Elland Road and six in their last seven fixtures in league and cup overall.
And it’s Ayling’s form that has dipped more than most and, as much as Leeds fans would like to, his performances have been indefensible recently. After struggling badly against Sheffield United on Friday, the right-back was nowhere to be seen once again as Derby left-back Craig Forsyth ghosted in to set up Sam Winnall’s equaliser in the second half.
On current displays, Leeds are not good enough for the Premier League and Ayling certainly isn’t. A rare dip in form is showing signs of descending into something worse for both player and club.