With a crunch week coming up for the Whites, Javi Gracia must present a side that is unified and organised. Long-time servant Liam Cooper could prove to be vital when galvanising the team, and it could be argued that the Scottish international should retain his place regardless of whether Max Wöber is fit or not.
An experienced head
Facing two home games on the bounce against sides around them in the table, Leeds United may look to individuals who have experienced a situation like this before. Liam Cooper was a vital part of the team that narrowly avoided relegation last season. Having a player who has that experience in scrappy games could give Leeds the edge on their opponents this week – especially against Forest who have not really had that Premier League experience.
Becoming the first player to have played under eleven different managers at Leeds United, it is a testament to the reliability that Liam Cooper has offered the club over the past nine years. He has been pivotal at the back under numerous managers, and while he has not had much of a chance under Gracia, it would be unfair to judge him on the Arsenal game alone and write him off. While Cooper may not offer that forward thinking play many modern defenders have, he is an out and out defender – an important trait to have going into two must-win games.
A known quantity
As previously mentioned, Cooper may not have that attacking flair, but it is clear that he is a trusted defender. Starring more often than not for Marcelo Bielsa is proof that the 31 year old is a competent member of the back line. While he may not have had that attacking prowess often associated with that Bielsa side, he offered a sense of stability that meant his fellow defenders could push forward and attack.
With the likes of Junior Firpo and Rasmus Kristensen finally coming into their own, it is important that they are supported by a reliable defender who has the sole job of defending. Having such a presence at the back will give players the confidence to play attacking football, and hopefully get the results Leeds desperately need.
A popular figure
As well as his stability on-field, his off-field stability is something that Gracia could use to the Whites’ advantage. Having been at the club for such a long time, Cooper is used to change, meaning he should be able to adapt to Gracia’s game plans, which have been touted for their pragmatism. Being at the club for a long period also means he has become quite the leader within the dressing room. Having taken a back seat for the past couple of months, it could be beneficial to the team that he be present on the pitch, as that provides the team with consistent leadership.
Being such a long-standing figure at Leeds United means he commands a lot of respect from his teammates – and rightly so, he has been the captain of side for the majority of his time at the club. Having such a respected player playing in these vital games could be the difference for Leeds as they search for six points this week.
Looking to the next week
While Max Wöber has proven to be a very capable defender, his Leeds career is in its infancy, and the Whites may turn to someone who has been there and done it already. ‘League One Liam’ has proven himself to be an invaluable player for Leeds United over the years, and more trust should be put into the central defender as the side look to climb away from the relegation spots.