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.”
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