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Leeds need to bolster defence with Ayling out for the season
Wednesday, 10th Jan 2018 23:28 by Tim Whelan

The club announced today that Luke Ayling will miss the rest of the season, so they will now have to examine their options for cover in the full-back positions.

A statement on the official website said “Luke Ayling faces the rest of the season on the sidelines following surgery on an ankle injury sustained in our New Year’s Day game against Nottingham Forest. The 26-year-old right back, who signed a new long term deal with the Whites in the summer, has been an important part of Thomas Christiansen’s first eleven this season. We will keep supporters up to date with Luke’s recovery progress.”

The most likely change to our first choice line-up will be for Berardi to revert to his favoured position of right back, while new signing Laurens De Bock comes in on the left, though the Belgian still has to complete a medical at Elland Road before we can get that deal over the line. I did see one report on-line that we are intending to loan De Bock out for the rest of the season, but that wouldn’t have made sense even before the Ayling injury, as left-back has been a problem position for us all season.

The defender is already 25 and surely is ready to perform at Championship level without the need to go elsewhere to gain experience, and Leeds are understood to have agreed a fee of around £1.5m for his signature. He has won three domestic trophies with Club Brugge and twice come close to selection for the Belgian national team, which is hard to break into these days with the amount of talent the country has at it’s disposal. The national side currently includes few players from their domestic league, and De Bock probably thought he needed to move abroad to improve his chances of making Belgium’s world cup squad.

He will also need to be playing regular first team football, and that became increasingly rare towards the end of his time at Brugge. Their current coach, Croatian Ivan Leko, has introduced a 3-5-2 formation, with the width supplied by wingers rather than overlapping full-backs, so De Bock found himself marginalised and decided to seek a move. And his availability led to quite a bit of interest, with having to fight off competition from several Italian clubs and at least one of our Championship rivals to attract him to Elland Road. So it looks like we can be optimistic that he will be a useful addition to our squad.

Assuming the transfer is completed without a hitch we will have two good full-backs when both are available, yet cover will still be needed in case Berardi or De Bock get injured. Or suspended come to that, bearing in mind that Berardi can have the occasional lapse of discipline, as we were reminded at Bristol City. De Bock was also a bit of a hot-head in younger days, getting three red cards in the early stages of his time at Brugge, though he has since calmed down.

The ‘Football Insider’ website say that a “well-placed source” has told them Leeds are likely to make a move for Luton’s attacking right back James Justin, having already watched him several times this season. Justin made his debut last season on his way to 39 appearances in 2016/7, and has been selected for a further 15 games since August. But Luton have already rejected several offers from Nottingham Forest and gave the England Under-20 international a new contract at the start of the current season to secure his services for a while longer.

Justin will still be 19 until the end of February, so he might be one for the future rather than a player Leeds are intending to field during the current campaign. A more likely option for cover in the right back position would be to recall Lewie Coyle from his loan at Fleetwood. The Yorkshire Evening Post’s Phil Hay has confirmed that Leeds have the option to do this, but would have to do so during this month’s transfer window.

Elsewhere in the squad, Victor Orta has confirmed that Leeds will still be loaning midfielder 21-year-old Yusuke Ideguchi to Cultural Leonesa, even though he apparently is eligible for a work permit right away. Orta told the official site “Yosuke is a dynamic midfielder with good technical ability and excellent movement. He is a traditional box to box player who is as comfortable winning balls as he is arriving to score goals. He has the stamina and the intelligence to be successful in England.”

All of which might suggest that he would be useful as a replacement for Saiz during the latter’s six game ban. But Orta explained “The Segunda Division in Spain is physical like the Championship and I believe that players can adapt to life in the Championship a little easier if they have experienced this league in Spain, as we have seen with Samuel Saiz.” Hopefully that won’t include learning the art of spitting at opponents.

We’ve certainly not seen the last of Leeds United’s transfer activity as the club works hard to improve the squad during the current transfer window, so watch this space.

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