EPL

‘I don’t feel it’s there’ – Luke Ayling says Leeds have lost their staying power

By Sports Desk May 22, 2023

Luke Ayling believes Leeds have lost their renowned fitness levels in a damning assessment of their plight this season.

The Whites were left on the brink of relegation from the Premier League after a 3-1 defeat at West Ham on Sunday.

They took the lead through Rodrigo but were pegged back by an equaliser from Declan Rice.

Then Leeds, famed for their stamina under former boss Marcelo Bielsa, wilted in the second half as goals from Jarrod Bowen and Manuel Lanzini left them needing a final-day miracle to stay up.

“I think in years gone past, teams feared us when it comes to a running point of view and our fitness and stuff and I just don’t feel like it’s there this season,” full-back Ayling told Sky Sports.

“We start so well, we start bright, we score a goal then they score a goal. That can happen at this level, but then we came out for the second half and we just can’t go again so it’s very disappointing.”

Rice, set for a big-money move away this summer, marked what is expected to be his final home appearance with a goal.

The England midfielder was named the club’s player of the year before kick-off and could sign off in style by lifting the Europa Conference League trophy next month.

“I said it roughly one year ago that he is on the way to becoming one of the best defensive midfielders in the world,” said full-back Vladimir Coufal.

“As a person, he is a top leader. I think he saved our season.”

Lanzini, whose West Ham contract expires at the end of the season, came on as a late substitute and scored with virtually his first touch.

“Manu is one of the best footballers I’ve ever met,” added Coufal.

“His composure on the ball and vision on the pitch is amazing. I’m so grateful that he’s been my team-mate. He’s a fantastic player and he deserved his goal. The celebration showed how likeable he is as a person and a player.”

Related items

  • Walker: Man City driven on by creating history Walker: Man City driven on by creating history

    Kyle Walker believes Manchester City were spurred on by creating history to a fourth straight Premier League title.

    A Phil Foden double and a Rodri strike saw City beat West Ham 3-1 on Sunday as they claimed a fourth consecutive Premier League crown, finishing two points above Arsenal.

    In doing so, City became the first team ever to win England's top division four times in a row, and Walker feels that was one of the key motivations behind the team finishing top of the Premier League pile yet again.

    When asked if creating history had driven him and his team-mates on, Walker told Sky Sports: "I think so, I think so. We went out of the Champions League, got into the FA Cup final, but to do this, make it four in a row, it made it something special.

    "It has been spoken about all year what we can achieve and the history we can make. But it is about the finer details. It was down to just one game and that game was West Ham United. We get past that then we make history, but more importantly we claim the Premier League again.

    "It is a very, very tough league to win. I looked at the Italian league, German league, Spanish league, the winners are 10, 15 points clear. Fair play to Arsenal and Liverpool for what they have done throughout the season, making sure they push us right to the limit."

    Walker turns 34 later this month but has shown little signs of slowing down, playing an integral role again this season on his way to a sixth Premier League title of his decorated career.

    Walker still feels he is capable of playing at the top level, saying: "I feel young. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I feel young, I feel great, I still have my pace.

    "I come to training every day wanting to learn. Once that goes then it is probably time to pack up, but this group of lads keeps you on your toes. They keep on you to keep improving every day."

    Walker has been City's captain this season, making his 300th appearance for the club in the title-securing win over West Ham.

    The defender was keen to emphasise that it has been a collective effort this term, though, explaining: "I am the man at the front and I wear the armband, but I don't put myself above anyone else. We are a team.

    "There are four captains including myself, and we all pull our weight. I am just the man they've picked to wear the armband which I am very grateful for. To be able to lift the trophy in this scenario, the four in a row, it is a dream come true."

  • Ancelotti focused on fitness and rhythm despite Villarreal comeback against Madrid Ancelotti focused on fitness and rhythm despite Villarreal comeback against Madrid

    Carlo Ancelotti was unbothered by Real Madrid's failed attempt to defend a three-goal lead against Villarreal, instead focusing on avoiding injuries and keeping their rhythm.

    A double from Arda Guler, as well as goals from Joselu and Lucas Vazquez, had Madrid in control at 4-1 up away to Villarreal on Sunday.

    Yet Alexander Sorloth, who pulled a goal back earlier on, managed three goals in eight minutes to salvage a 4-4 draw for the hosts against the LaLiga champions.

    Despite faltering to a late comeback, Ancelotti was more than pleased with his side's efforts, ahead of the upcoming Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund on June 1 at Wembley Stadium.

    "The target was not the points because we don't need them, the target was to play a good game with rhythm, intensity, avoiding injuries. Everything went perfectly," he told a post-match press conference.

    "I'm not worried ahead of the Champions League final, this was an open game.

    "Maybe we conceded more goals than necessary but that's okay, it doesn't change anything about what the final has to be. In attack, we played well."

    Villarreal are set to finish eighth in the LaLiga table, unable to be caught by any team below and incapable of reaching seventh-placed Real Betis.

    Sorloth may end with an individual award, though, after scoring his league-leading 23rd goal of the season with the fourth of his quartet of strikes.

    "It was a match with a lot of goals, the kind that the fans like," Villarreal forward Gerard Moreno, who provided three assists, told Movistar. 

    "I'll take the reaction in the second half. We will try to go to Europe next year.

    "I hope Sorloth ends up top scorer. He's a fantastic teammate. He deserves it. We're going to try to help him. He's had an incredible season."

  • Emotional Guardiola lauds Liverpool legend Klopp as Man City rivalry ends Emotional Guardiola lauds Liverpool legend Klopp as Man City rivalry ends

    An emotional Pep Guardiola offered his sincerest thanks to Jurgen Klopp for pushing Manchester City to new heights after their relentless Premier League battle with Liverpool.

    Klopp's Reds are the only side to have stopped Man City from winning the top-flight title in the last seven seasons, with Liverpool taking the crown in 2019-20.

    For all of the Liverpool and City rivalry, there has remained a mutual respect between Guardiola and Klopp, who faced off during their time with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund respectively as well.

    Ahead of Klopp's departure from Anfield, the German labelled Guardiola as "the best manager in the world", suggesting no one else could achieve four straight titles with the City side that Guardiola managed.

    After lifting a record-breaking fourth consecutive Premier League trophy following Sunday's 3-1 victory over West Ham, Guardiola was moved to tears when asked about Klopp.

    "I will miss him a lot," he said as his voice wavered. "Jurgen has been a really important part of my life. He brought me to another level as a manager. We respect each other incredibly.

    "I have the feeling he will be back and thank you so much for his words but he knows that behind me there is a lot that this club provides me with, otherwise alone I can't do it. I'm humble enough to understand that.

    "He helps me with his team, he has been a huge competitor in my life. I didn't discover the way I can punish them like I can find for other teams. With him it has been so difficult."

    City became the first team in English top-flight history to win the title in four consecutive seasons, having won the league in 2020-21, 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24.

    The Citizens pipped Arsenal, whose win over Everton mattered for little on the final day, as Guardiola's former colleague Mikel Arteta continues to impress with the Gunners.

    Guardiola referenced fellow Spaniard Arteta as he continued in his praise for Liverpool's Klopp, who enjoyed an emotional farewell at Anfield after the Reds' 2-0 victory over Wolves.

    "I'm pretty sure Mikel [Arteta] will continue his legacy to drive us to another level," the Man City manager continued. I wish him all the best and hope his final game was special, he deserved it.

    "He made Liverpool recognised with his stamp, and the incredible pride of being a Liverpool fan.

    "It's not just about titles, there are personalities that when they arrive in one place they stay forever and Jurgen and Liverpool will be part of the level of [Bill] Shankly and [Bob] Paisley and these incredible legends."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.