Stuart Dallas has made an excellent start to the season having started both of Leeds United’s opening two Championship games at right-back.
The injury that Luke Ayling sustained ahead of Leeds United’s first pre-season game of the summer would have left plenty of the Elland Road faithful feeling fearful for the coming campaign.
One of the factors that made Marcelo Bielsa’s debut campaign in the Championship so impressive was the amount of injuries that he had to deal with. And every optimistic supporter suggested that there was no way that their luck could be as bad this time around.
But two games into the new campaign, Bielsa is still awaiting the chance to pick from a fully fit and available squad, and part of the reason for that is Ayling’s absence, with the right-back joining Tyler Roberts on the sidelines.
Stuart Dallas was the man to play at right-back at Bristol City and against Nottingham Forest at the weekend. And based on those two performances, as well as his form at the very end of last season, it seems fair to say that Ayling could well face a much greater battle to get back into the team than he would have expected.
Dallas produced arguably his best performance for the club in the second-leg of last season’s play-off semi-final. His first goal on the night allowed Leeds to put one foot towards Wembley, and his second – a wonderful finish after a great move down the left flank – inspired a new wave of hope when the Whites had done their best to hand Derby the tie. Unfortunately, there was, of course, one more nasty surprise in store for Bielsa’s men on that night.
The Northern Ireland international has been one of the side’s most impressive performers across the opening two games, and has done very little wrong in the right wing-back role.
Ayling is too important to stay out of the team for too long once he returns to full fitness – Bielsa noted his influence on the team ahead of United’s Carabao Cup tie with Salford City on Tuesday (via Yorkshire Evening Post) – but Dallas is threatening to ensure that his return is delayed further, and perhaps sending a warning to the former Bristol City man that he cannot afford to not rediscover his best form if he wants to stay in the side.