The system of Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has helped vault Luke Ayling into the company of Barcelona star Lionel Messi.
Over the course of the last twelve months, we’ve seen fans watch in amazement as Bielsa carried his liquid football style into the Premier League with relative ease. Leeds’ scintillating campaign was full of energy and drama with their final position being 9th. In addition to that, they were only three points off of a place in Europe.
Ayling & Messi = fire
There are so many United players that could and should be picked out from that squad for praise, but as it turns out, the aforementioned Ayling played so well within one specific metric that he wound up alongside Lionel Messi.
In what list, you ask? Progressive carrying distance, of course.
The progressive carrying distance statistic is worked out by measuring players who carry the ball more than five metres forward from where it was received. As you can see there are some fairly elite level names featured, not least of which Messi, and we’d like to think Bielsa would be pretty happy to see Ayling make an appearance.
It’s not like he did enough to be named Player of the Season but his contributions certainly haven’t gone unnoticed. He was always one of the main men pushing Leeds into the final third of the pitch, regardless of whether or not they were 3-0 down or 1-0 up.
There are plenty of debates to be had regarding the immediate future of this team and what they can accomplish in 2021/22. After all, second season syndrome has been known to play a role in the top flight for many clubs, including Sheffield United who dropped like a stone during the last campaign.
For the time being, though, it still feels as if this is a manager (and a player) that should be praised as opposed to criticised.
Featured image credit: Getty