Dominic Matteo has singled out Luke Ayling for his Leeds United performances so far this season, calling him ‘phenomenal’.
The 29-year-old defender has played every single minute of Premier League action in the Whites’ six games so far this season.
Ayling, a £750,000 signing in 2016, is a right-back by trade but the former Arsenal youth proved his versatility by moving to centre-back in the 3-0 win over Aston Villa last Friday.
He has arguably been Leeds’ most consistent and reliable player over the past four years ago, along with Pablo Hernandez and Stuart Dallas.
But Ayling has never courted the same praise as some of his high-profile team-mates, though Matteo feels that he has set the tone for United’s successful top-flight return so far in a quiet manner.
He told The Yorkshire Evening Post: “Luke Ayling has just been phenomenal so far this season. It’s almost the tone he sets and the attitude he brings.
“He gets stuck in but he is very balanced in what he does. I think the player that he was a couple of seasons ago, maybe he would’ve been making a few more rash tackles and going to ground a lot more, but his decision making has improved so much. The highest praise you can give at the moment is that wherever he plays he doesn’t look out of place.”
Even if captain Liam Cooper – whose armband was worn by Ayling at Villa Park – is still absent for the visit of Leicester City this weekend, you’d still back the former Bristol City star to impress in central defence.
It could be slightly more difficult on this occasion, given he could be up against the speed of Harvey Barnes or Jamie Vardy, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ayling, wherever he plays, post a steady 8/10 again.
He definitely deserves more credit from pundits and whatnot, but so long as he’s doing his job for Leeds then the fans will acknowledge his importance and, really, nothing else matters.