'Two teams trying to win, playing good football - Leeds United's Luke Ayling on clash with his former club Arsenal

Playing a Premier League game against the club who released him as an 18-year-old will give Luke Ayling an element of satisfaction but he insists Arsenal present just another game.

Saturday, 14th November 2020, 2:45 pm
Updated Saturday, 14th November 2020, 2:48 pm
OLD BOY - Luke Ayling in action against his first club Arsenal for Leeds United in the FA Cup back in January. Pic: Getty

The right-back could not have imagined the career he would go on to have when the Gunners let him go and he made the decision to give League One football a shot in 2010.

Promotion to the Championship with unfancied Yeovil, another with Bristol City and a third, this time to the Premier League with Leeds United, have put Ayling in a position to try and take three points from his first ever club.

He joined Arsenal at 10 years of age but the eight years he spent there amount to little in the way of emotional connection or nostalgia, ahead of next weekend's Elland Road meeting between the clubs.

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Leeds lost 1-0 to Mikel Arteta's side in the FA Cup third round at the Emirates last season, but they haven't welcomed the Gunners to Elland Road for a league fixture since 1 November 2003, when Thierry Henry scored twice in a 4-1 away win.

Ayling is one of several first team members still training at Thorp Arch during the international break.

“It’s been quiet, I think there are only probably seven of the first team lads left,” he told LUTV.

“The hard work continues, though, we’re doing a lot of gym stuff and a lot of work outside, it’s pretty quiet when they all go away, but this is what happens when you get to the Premier League."

YOUNG GUNNER - Luke Ayling spent eight years at Arsenal before his release at 18. He says there are no emotional ties to the club ahead of their visit to Leeds United next weekend: Pic: Jamie McDonald/Getty

You also get to test yourself against top-class opposition.

Back in January Leeds gave Arsenal a torrid time in the first half, Marcelo Bielsa's press creating all manner of problems for Arteta's men, who regrouped at the break and ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a Reiss Nelson goal.

Ayling feels no extra excitement for this game but it is another to relish.

“I spent a lot of time there as a kid, but I was only a kid then and I never really played or trained with the first team,” he said.

“I don’t know anyone there and I’ve got no ties there, so for me it is just another game, but it will be nice to finally play against them in the Premier League after getting released at 18 will be nice.

“It should be a good game of football, it will be two teams trying to win the game, playing good football and hopefully it will be us coming away with the points."

The relatively recent encounter between the clubs is somewhat of a reference point for Leeds but Ayling says two halves of the performance levels they reached in the first 45 at the Emirates will be required if Leeds are to add to their 10 points.

“I think we can take confidence from our first half performance (in the FA Cup tie in January), but we know our second half performance was nowhere near it, we need to play like we did in the first half for 90 minutes," he said.

“We’ve worked so hard to get to the Premier League and play teams like this and we’ve done well so far against the top teams and hopefully we can do well again here.”