Tag Archives: Luke Ayling

Chelsea Need Some Leeds Style On-field Leadership, but Sarri Should Hold His Head High – by Rob Atkinson

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Today isn’t the first time I’ve felt a bit sorry for Chelsea, even though as a Leeds United fan, it’s in my DNA to despise them, and I normally manage that quite well. But I sympathised when they lost a Champions League Final on penalties to you-know-who, after outplaying them during the game itself. As loud as were the celebrations the length and breadth of Devon that night, I was gutted for the Bluescum. It was a question of which is the greater evil – no contest.

Today, though, I felt sorry for them at Wembley in defeat to Man City, even though I wanted City to win, naturally. I think everyone knows what happened, with the Chelsea goalkeeper, whose name I can’t be bothered to look up, refusing to come off when his number went up for substitution near the end of extra time. The lad put himself first and his manager Maurizio Sarri nowhere, showing a total lack of respect for his team-mates in the process. The outcome seemed incredible, but the player remained on the field, and his team duly went on to lose to City, with the young lad (Kepa Arrizabalaga, that’s his name) diving over one he should have saved. Coach Sarri cut a forlorn figure as he followed his defeated team up the Wembley steps, and it’s difficult to say what his future now holds. But it seems fair to say, despite his post-match attempts at smoothing things over, that he was hung out to dry by a young lad who needs to learn, and learn fast, that what the boss says, goes.

A lot of what was missing today at Wembley for Chelsea, quite apart from that vital element of respect for the coach, was a bit of on-field leadership. Now my club, Leeds United – although our squad is infinitely less costly and talented than Chelsea’s – has that quality of leadership in spades, both on and off the field. In the first place, none of our players would even think of defying coach Marcelo Bielsa – and in the second, there’d be no shortage of volunteers to point out, not so gently, the error of his ways to any player daft enough to try it. In today’s game, only David Luiz made some sort of half-hearted attempt to set a young player back onto the straight and narrow, and it wasn’t nearly enough.

A great example of what I’m talking about occurred during yesterday’s win over Bolton. Leeds were awarded a penalty during the first half (check the records if you don’t believe me) and, in the absence of regular spot kick taker Kemar Roofe, there were three contenders to grab the ball. Patrick Bamford was the man who got to it first, but Pablo Hernandez was quite interested, and tyro Tyler Roberts was positively insistent. Roberts was prepared to make an issue of it when, from the back, Luke Ayling came steaming into the area and grabbed Tyler by the scruff of the neck to usher him away and let Bamford get on with it. I’m sure that Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper et al would have intervened if necessary, but Roberts wisely yielded before things got that serious. The penalty was converted, and they all lived happily ever after.

That Elland Road penalty incident didn’t directly involve the coach, but it does demonstrate the importance of players showing some leadership and solidarity on the pitch, when all the manager can do is holler from a hundred yards away above the noise of a 35,000 crowd. On-field leadership is the eleventh commandment as far as football is concerned, and Chelsea grievously lacked it today. The rest of the team, faced with such blatant defiance of the manager, should have been frogmarching their arrogant young keeper off – because once the boss’s authority is compromised, it’s a slippery slope downwards. Luiz apart, the Chelsea players simply stood by and watched. Clearly, some sort of damage limitation script was agreed for the eager Sky interviewers afterwards, but the fact remains that there are big problems at Chelsea, problems that they seem to lack the essential character to deal with.

In the circumstances, I fear for Sarri, whose authority now appears to be shot through. But, for me, he can hold his head up high; the fault lies with a young professional who has set himself in defiance of his boss, as well as the senior professionals, Luiz apart, who failed to enforce their manager’s will on the field. To me, going into a penalty shoot-out just minutes after that scene of disgrace and confusion, Chelsea were certs to lose, and it was no surprise that they did, missing their first penalty and then seeing their rebellious keeper dive over one that he should have saved. Justice was served, it seemed, for everyone except poor Sarri.

Incidentally, this sort of thing has happened before, and in circumstances surprising to those who were so quick to claim that what happened to Sarri would never have happened to Alex Ferguson. Because Ferguson was the Man U manager in 1991, when they faced Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley in the League Cup Final. Les Sealey, since sadly deceased, was the Red Devils keeper, and he sustained a deep knee gash for which they wanted to sub him – but the hotheaded Sealey refused to be subbed, getting almost violent with the member of the coaching staff trying to see him off the pitch. Wednesday went on to win 1-0 with a goal from John Sheridan.

It’s not often that I look at a major final, and at the situation of a major and majorly rich, honour-laden club like Chelsea, and end up with my appreciation of the way my own club is run so greatly enhanced. But it happened today. Chelsea could learn a lot from the way things are done at Leeds – but I wish only the best for their beleaguered coach Maurizio Sarri, whatever fate now has in store for him.

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Leeds v Middlesbrough Match Officials Warned “Watch Out for Ayala” – by Rob Atkinson

Boro’s Ayala – a box of dirty tricks

As if tonight’s top of the table Championship summit clash between Leeds United and Middlesbrough wasn’t sufficiently loaded with potential flashpoints, one above all others had the potential to affect both the result and the disciplinary responsibilities of the match officials at Elland Road.

With a full house expected and the electronic eyes of the Sky TV cameras ever on the lookout for controversy as well as action, the atmosphere will be edgy and intense right from the start. Both clubs have playing staff previously on the books of their opponents, and there is a long-standing rivalry between the Kings of Yorkshire and the club best known for being Yorkshire rejects.

One potential source of strife and controversy stands out above most others though, with the likely presence in the Boro side of Daniel Ayala, a man with recent form in this fixture. Last season, with Leeds two goals to the good, Mr. Ayala blatantly wrestled Luke Ayling to the floor in the United box, an action somehow missed by match officials. Understandably outraged, Ayling sprang up to remonstrate, and in the subsequent kerfuffle, Ayala, with a look of saucer-eyed innocence on his face, contrived to have his team awarded an unlikely penalty.

Not all match officials, of course, are as visually challenged as the assistant referee on that occasion appeared to be. We must give him the benefit of the doubt, after all, and assume that it was his eyesight to blame, and not the presence of the Middlesbrough away support just behind him. But Ayala’s initial assault on Ayling was crude and obvious, and it’s reasonable to say that the incident was not one in which justice was served. Fortunately, Leeds hung on deservedly to win the game 2-1.

Mr. Ayala is still up to his nasty little tricks though, and still managing somehow to be blatant about it, and yet escape the notice of the men with the whistle and the flags. The recent Boro v West Brom game was a case in point, with Ayala clearly offending and completely getting away with it. How he does this is a mystery; we can only hope that forewarned is forearmed, and that – if Ayala does play this evening – the nastier parts of his game are spotted by the officials.

Here’s hoping for a good game and a fair outcome. MOT.

Leeds Have the Advantage Over Top-Flight Swansea in Kyle Bartley Chase – by Rob Atkinson

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Bartley – happy at Elland Road

Swansea City boss Paul Clement might be talking a good fight and looking to play hardball over his loaned-out defender Kyle Bartley, who has made such an impression during his season-long stint at Leeds United. But, especially now that the Swans’ Premier League status is assured, football economics and a dash of common sense will tend towards a conclusion that, if Leeds want Bartley – and if Bartley wants Leeds – then the situation will pan out towards a satisfactory conclusion for both player and the Elland Road club.

The fact is, despite Clement’s neat line about “welcoming Bartley home”, a lot will depend on where the player himself sees his future. There is only one year left on Bartley’s Swans contract, and Leeds fans will be familiar with how that scenario usually ends, from bitter experience of seeing favourites leave Yorkshire a year early for a fee, or stick it out and walk for nothing. Whatever success the giant defender has enjoyed this Championship season, his potential as a Premier League defender is unclear. He’s likely to enjoy more game time at Leeds, and on that account, as well as his friendship with Luke Ayling, would perhaps prefer a move to Yorkshire rather than signing an extended deal for the Welsh club.

As for Leeds, they’ve seen a highly promising central defensive partnership develop between the mighty Bartley and Swedish colossus Pontus Jansson; they’re more likely to be looking at supplementing those positions by the acquisition of quality deputies, to provide the strength in depth lacking in the campaign just ended, rather than losing one pillar of a towering twin rearguard.

There’ll be more talking done, of course, both between the clubs and in the press so that the fans can see how serious and committed their managers are. But at the end of the day, money talks – and Swansea would be better off banking a fee for a player they could otherwise lose for nothing next May. Whatever claims and counter-claims fly back and forth, the only real work to be done is likely to be a bit of dickering over money.

If I were a betting man (and my bank manager is grateful that I’m not), my dosh would be on Bartley signing for Leeds permanently, or at least securing another loan, with an option to buy – perhaps in the January window.

It should be a busy summer, with a new sole owner, the maverick, amateur element of club ownership gone, and some backroom talent already recruited. But the retention of this season’s centre-back partnership will be seen as an important part of all that and I, for one, would be extremely surprised to see Kyle Bartley in a Swansea shirt when next season kicks off.

Twitter Leeds Fans Unhappy at Having to Wait to Moan About New Signing – by Rob Atkinson

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Twitter Leeds fans’ verdict on Ayling: “Rubbish”

There has been a mass whinge-storm on Twitter from unhappy Leeds United “fans” upset at having to wait until as late as 4pm on Thursday to carp at, slag off, destroy, ridicule and otherwise criticise the club’s latest signing, Luke Ayling from Bristol City. Ayling’s likely capture was first rumoured two days ago, and some dedicated moaners have been champing at the bit ever since, just waiting to pour scorn on the deal. The delay has been described as “cruelty to dumb beasts”. 

Ayling is known as a versatile defender of great promise, able to operate anywhere across a back four, and some feel that this will make him a valuable asset for the Leeds United squad. Having waited impatiently to slag the lad off, though, some Twitter users are now holding nothing back in showing their absolute contempt for the signing. “Ah’ve never heard of this ‘ere player and Ah know nowt about him,” said one cantankerous individual from Pontefract, “but I can tell thee here and now that he’s rubbish and nowhere near the quality we need to sign. And whoever this Premier League midfielder is, he’s rubbish too. Absolutely bluddy useless. What’s Garry Monk playing at? He’s nivver consulted me, tha knows.”

Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything asked the career complainer, who wished to remain anonymous but whose name is Ivor Bigg-Gripe of Monkhill, what he might think of any other prospective signings this transfer window. “Well, you’ll have to wait for mah detailed observations, lad,” our man said, cautiously. “It doesn’t seem fair to rip ’em to shreds till they’ve actually signed, ‘owever long I ‘ave to wait. But I can tell thi now, they’re crap, whoever they are. Useless. All of ’em. And tha can quote me on that.”

Leeds are expected to complete a couple more deals before the end of the window, with as many as three players leaving the club. Twitter users on the LUFC hashtag are virtually unanimous in their disapproval of the un-named transfer targets, whilst agreeing nem. con. that whoever is moving out is vital to the team and should not be let go at any price.

The Leeds United Twitter feed has been officially classified as “ludicrous”.