Looking around twitter everyone seems to want a Leeds United defender. I can see why we had a good record in The Championship and our defenders are competitively priced. A lot of debate seems to have centred around Ayling and Dallas who are both valued at £4.5m. I have seen countless threads on twitter but none of them consider much outside of anything other than points totals over the season. I will give you all the context you could ever need and then can make your own decision.
I have been loathe to comment on this on twitter, there is a lot going on here to digest. First things first, Stuart Dallas brilliant utility player he was asked to play in a number of positions last year and more than held his own. He performed so well that he was voted Players Player of the Year.
He first started the season at right-back because Ayling was injured, once Ayling returned he then played all over the shop over the busy winter period as The Championship games came thick and fast. He continued this trend but spend a good portion of minutes at left-back I would say from February onwards, but still spent time in midfield and at right-back.
You may be thinking why am I telling you, well its important because so far as I can tell no one is considering the context of these positional changes other than thinking he may play out of position now and again.
Honestly I think he is our first choice left-back currently, we signed Barry Douglas for decent money at the time . However Douglas just cannot stay fit in his time at the club and there is a lot of noise about him moving on. When you consider the fitness demands demands Bielsa puts on his players this is hardly surprising.
Ayling 4 goals and 3 assists
Dallas 5 goals and 1 assist
But there is far more going on here than simply a left-back and a right-back. We have two players playing in multiple positions, with right-back and left-back being where they are strongest. But its unlikely that is what positions they will play in over the 38 games, time to discuss.
If Dallas is going to be our first choice left-back then we need to look at his left back data when considering him for selection. I will be honest his left-back data is not great reading.
He played 1137 minutes at left-back spread across 19 games, out of those 19 games he spent the full game there there 7 times. No goals from that position, and 1 assist. He managed 16 shots accruing a total xG of 0.53. He totalled 29 crosses that found their target 31% of the, whilst managing 10 shot assists, accruing a total of 1.64 xA. I told you it was not the best and and when you consider he is stepping up a division it is not going to get better.
Midfield Does Dallas
Dallas spent most of his season in midfield accruing 1406 minutes there spending the full match there 11 times. I was actually surprised by this. He spent small parts of games there too acting as relief for tired legs in midfield.
His data is nothing special but is still decent for a potential out of position player. he managed 3 goals from midfield and 0 assists, amassing 31 shots which you can see above. despite not registering an assist from midfield he still managed 0.83 shot assists from this position per game.
Potentially we have another Lundstram on our hands here on the face of it. However unless we have an injury crisis I do not envisage Dallas playing much in midfield. We absolutely have to buy a central midfielder of starting quality, as much as I like Dallas he is not good enough to be relied upon in midfield permanently. I do expect he will get minutes there but if you are buying him expecting to have another Lundstram you are misguided. The only way that will happen is if we do not manage to buy a midfielder.
Closer to deadline I will tweet about this and what I expect. I think your best bet for out of position returns from Dallas will be early in the season. Klich doesn’t really get injured, but Forshaw has had his issues with fitness, Dallas will be behind those two for central midfield. He may get moved there later in a game too as he offers a bit more going forward than Forshaw. The friendlies will be the biggest indicator which I will keep you up to date on.
Luke Ayling its an easy decision right?
I have seen people say that Ayling should be a shoe-in for £4.5m and on the face of it they are right. But dig a little deeper and its not so straight forward.
Bielsa likes to employ man-marking but has one player free at the back who has to read the play and sweep up. Teams started employing two up front as a way to pin more players back from our attack. At times Ayling has been employed as a centre-half. I say at times but he has 1389 minutes there last season so that’s a big portion of minutes, he spent the full match their on 9 occasions.
It is not even worth discussing his attacking statistics from their, 0 goals and 0 assists and a total xG of 0.66. If he is playing centre-half say goodbye to any notion of attacking returns.
Ayling at right-back
When playing in his natural position Ayling has average attacking stats, 4 goals and 3 assists registering an xG of 2.37 (insert shot map) form a total of 2048 minutes which works out a shade under 23 matches, although its a bit more sporadic than that due to games with system changes mid-game.
When playing right-back or right-wingback Ayling managers 0.97 shots per game, with an accuracy of 40%, coming in at 0.1 xG per 90. He also averages 4 crosses per match with finding his man 35.2% of the time. He also manages 0.79 shot assists per game accruing an xA of 0.1.
I think of the two over the season, I probably prefer Ayling but its close, they both have have serious drawbacks.
Even More Context
One thing that could throw a spanner in the works is that we desperately need a centre-half. At first I thought there may be a chance that Strujik could start however after discussing it with @SebWassell I think it is more likely if we do not sign a centre half soon that Ayling will start there. This will mean that Dallas will come over to right back and one of Douglas and Alioski will start from left-back.
But what are Dallas’ right back numbers I hear you ask? Well Dallas managed 1768 minutes there last season, mainly from the start as Ayling was injured. However he did slot in there when Ayling would play centre-back.
Goal involvements are not as good as Ayling, 2 goals with xG accrued of 2.38, with no assists. However he did average 1.63 shots per game, also 4.58 crosses per game that would find their man 25.6% of the time. He also managed 0.61 shot assists per game which averaged 0.09 xA per match. So a mixed bag really in the underlying numbers.
So who should you pick?
Well its not an easy one and a decision that should be made closer to the gameweek one deadline. If we have not signed a centre-back in the next few weeks with the window being open for another month it would be Dallas of the two. Ayling likely to play centre-back and then that leaves Dallas to play right-back.
It is not an easy answer as of yet and honestly if Ayling ends up being CB I would be giving Barry Douglas a serious look. He is only £4m and if he can get on the pitch he will shake set-piece duty. It is all a lot of ifs and buts right now, personally I think if we do not sign a CB in the next week Ayling will start against Liverpool.
I know this has not made things any clearer for you but you have the proper stats now at not just a thread of total numbers. You can make an informed choice. My advice keep an eye on my twitter as it will become clearer the closer gameweek 1 gets who should be picked. I will dissect the friendlies and give it all the once over.