Leeds United are in desperate need of new defenders this summer. Their existing defensive unit that has yielded the best record in the Championship so far is in danger of falling apart with Ben White set to return to Brighton & Hove Albion while Gaetano Berardi’s contract expires at the end of the campaign.
What Are The Linked Defenders’ Current Situation?
Ayala has caught the attention of Leeds United mainly due to his consistency for Middlesborough this season. He has been an ever-present figure for the Teessiders over the past few years. This season was no exception until he picked up an injury against Preston. He is yet to return to the side since.
Nevertheless, Ayala’s contract at Middlesborough expires at the end of the campaign. That means he will be a free agent, thus making him a financially compatible target for Leeds United.
Koch has a much more delicate situation at Freiburg. Unlike Ayala, the German international is courted by a host of clubs across England, including Tottenham Hotspur. That is because he is actually being considered as one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga following an excellent start to the campaign with Freiburg.
Koch’s contract at SCF expires in 2021. But, the defender has recently admitted that he is open to making the next step in his career. Meanwhile, he also reportedly has a release clause of €18 million. However, interest from Spurs as well as West Ham United could make the job very difficult for Leeds United.
Ayala is a physically astute, no-nonsense defender. Standing at 1.90m, he has an imposing presence which gives him a considerable advantage in the air. He has won almost four aerial duels per game in the Championship this season. He is also a good reader of the game, having averaged 1.2 interceptions per game.
Ayala’s defensive commitment, meanwhile, is backed up by the fact that he has made almost six clearances per game, which is quite impressive even for a centre-back. He has attempted only 37 tackles but has maintained a success rate of 83%. But more importantly, the 29-year-old has loads of experience in the Championship, having made over 200 appearances in the English second division.
Much like Ayala, Koch, too, has an excellent physique, boasting a towering 1.92m frame. As a result, he has won the third-highest number of clearances in the Bundesliga this season. His tally of 3.7 aerial duels won per game is only bettered by Wout Weghorst and Sebastian Andersson.
In the other aspects of defensive contributions, Koch has averaged 1.3 interceptions, 3.7 clearances and 1.6 tackles per game with a success rate of 75%. But, what makes him such an appealing target for Leeds United is his versatility as he can also be utilised in the holding midfield role.
Who Should Bielsa Move For Next Summer?
It is tough to distinguish between these two players, as there are significant qualitative differences. Koch is among the most promising emerging defenders in German football while Ayala is slowly nearing the final phase of his career and will only be considered as a back-up defender for Leeds United.
It is also fair to point out that Bundesliga, which is one of the top five leagues in Europe, is much more competitive than the English second division. That means the statistical comparison is not exactly viable. So to conclude, Leeds United should move for both these defenders if they can, especially with Ayala being available for free this summer.
Stat courtesy: Whoscored