Liam Cooper’s leadership and experience has been crucial for Leeds United. He joined the Whites in 2014 and has since played an important role in helping the club return to the Premier League. The centre back has been involved in all seven of his side’s fixtures in the league. The 30-year-old has surely displayed his best form for the Whites through his superb game presence over the years.
Although his start to the season did not go as well as he would have planned, the Scotland international has been a central piece to Leeds shaky start to the season. Cooper hasn’t been without his faults as he gave away a penalty against Everton. He struggled to keep up with Allan Saint-Maximin in the draw at Newcastle but he did actually win a few important challenges. He won the highest number of aerial duels in the game against West Ham. Against Watford, Cooper produced one of his best performances so far in the season, he topped the charts for completing all his successful passes, he also remained unbeaten by any Watford player throughout the game. Though he was also lucky to have escaped punishment for the incident that led to Watford’s goal being waived off in their previous game.
Cooper has been facing criticism for his age however he has hit back displaying top performance in the last few games. His performance played a crucial part in winning three points against the Hornets. The centre back currently stands at the top in terms of passes, tackles, aerial battles won, clearances and interceptions under team stats. He is often regarded as an on-field manager as his leadership has always been crucial for the team.
Let’s look at some stats to understand Cooper’s importance at the heart of the defence.
His defensive stats have been top tier this season as indicated by the above chart. He surpasses the league median value in terms of most of the defensive metrics. His aerial duels per 90 and recoveries per 90 deserve a special mention.
Cooper has great awareness and his ability to read the game is brilliant as well. For a defender, he has great passing ability as indicated by his pass map. He is capable of delivering long passes and diagonal balls into the opponent half carrying high threat. His pass map also displays the wide variety of passes in his arsenal.
Leeds’ high-intensity style of football makes it necessary for Cooper to be on his toes all the time, something which he is adept at. He always stays deepest in his own half. Instead of marking a player or going after them, he makes sure that he utilizes his ability to read the game and provide cover for any gaps in his defence. His duel chart shows his extensive presence in his own half. It also indicates that he is not afraid of contesting in duels in the opponent half as well. Cooper excels in both aerial duels and ground defending duels.
Although Leeds have registered only one win this season from their seven fixtures, Cooper has made sure that he fulfils his defensive duties. He ranks at number third in terms of defensive duels won.
In addition to his defensive and passing abilities, Cooper contributes heavily during his team’s transition into attack. Leeds United would be looking to build upon their first victory of the season after the international break. The consensus remains among the Leeds fandom that Cooper has been remarkable this season.