Arsenal coach reveals Gunners believed Leeds United star had 'no chance' of making it in the Premier League

Arsenal coach Per Mertesacker has revealed that the Gunners thought Leeds United's Luke Ayling had "no chance whatsoever" of making it in the Premier League.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 10:42 am
Updated Thursday, 21st October 2021, 10:44 am

The Whites full-back was released by the Gunners in 2010 at the age of 18, having seen his first professional contract come to an end after being deemed surplus to requirements in the capital without making a single first team appearance.

Ayling was a key component of Arsenal's league and FA Youth Cup double-winning team as a youngster but was pushed into the lower leagues in a bid to graduate into senior football.

He made a loan move to then League One side Yeovil Town permanent, eventually helping the club into the Championship through the play-offs before joining Bristol City.

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Leeds United defender Luke Ayling. Pic: Getty

After six years in the Football League, Ayling made the switch to Elland Road for a minimal fee of £200,000 in search of a fresh challenge again in the second division.

The now 30-year-old has turned himself into somewhat of a fan favourite in West Yorkshire following his arrival in 2016, making 187 appearances for the Whites in total including helping the club return to the top flight after 16 years away.

Ayling enjoyed a stellar debut campaign in the Premier League last year, proving that he did in fact have what it takes to compete in England's top division despite Arsenal's verdict over a decade ago.

Mertesacker - who is the current Gunners academy boss - cited Ayling as an example of beating the odds to reach the top of the sport having fought back from the third tier.

"Only one per cent of academy players will make it in professional football and two thirds of them are no longer involved in the game at any level by the age of 20," the former German international said when discussing what it takes to make it in the game.

"There are only so many spaces you can facilitate in the senior squad but it’s always been a narrative at Arsenal to give young players a chance to play at the top.

"For example, Luke Ayling was on our books as a schoolboy and if you speak to the academy managers from that time they would have said he’s got no chance whatsoever.

"But six or seven years on he is playing in the Premier League for Leeds and even if boys don’t make it with Arsenal we are giving them the tools to succeed with someone else.

"It’s all about the motivation and intensity to keep up at the highest level. It’s all very well to excel in one training session, but can you do it on a consistent basis?

"Having the commitment to do that is what separates the best from the average. Because the average will not make it to the highest level."