Leeds United stalwart's positive thrashings record revealed but enduring injury concern lingers

Leeds United have lost by a margin of four or more goals on seven occasions since the beginning of last season, but club captain Liam Cooper has featured in just one of those defeats
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Leeds’ recent shellackings at the hands of Crystal Palace and Liverpool hardly bode well for the fixtures United must fulfil before the end of the season with encounters against Manchester City, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur on the horizon.

The team were cut apart by Roy Hodgson’s rejuvenated Eagles, and schooled by Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, conceding 11 goals in the process. Defeat to Liverpool was the seventh time since August 2021 that Leeds have been beaten by a margin of four or more goals in the Premier League.

1-5 vs Manchester United – August 2021

Leeds United v Leicester City. United's Liam Cooper wins a header. 25th April 2023 (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)Leeds United v Leicester City. United's Liam Cooper wins a header. 25th April 2023 (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Leeds United v Leicester City. United's Liam Cooper wins a header. 25th April 2023 (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

0-7 vs Manchester City – December 2021

0-6 vs Liverpool – February 2022

0-4 vs Tottenham Hotspur – February 2022

0-4 vs Manchester City – April 2022

1-5 vs Crystal Palace – April 2023

1-6 vs Liverpool – April 2023

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In each of the last six heavy defeats listed above, one man has been conspicuous by his absence: Liam Cooper. The club captain featured in the 5-1 beating by arch-rivals Man United on the opening day of last season, but has since missed each of the Whites' last six heaviest defeats.

In addition, Cooper was also absent for the 5-2 scoreline which fell in Brentford’s favour at the beginning of this campaign.

The skipper has come in for scrutiny throughout his time as a Premier League defender, with some supporters deeming him not up to code in the top flight. However, a return to the side following Leeds’ undoing versus Palace and Liverpool has seen the team concede three times in two games, a marked reduction on the 11 shipped in their two previous fixtures.

That said, there are concerns regarding Cooper’s capability to play several matches in succession. Javi Gracia and his predecessor Jesse Marsch have both expressed reservations about the captain’s physical condition and needing to carefully manage his workload after a series of troublesome injuries. Cooper has missed 34 league games over the past two seasons, the vast majority through injury or lack of match fitness.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Whether this is a trend which correlates with Cooper’s availability or is merely a coincidence remains to be seen, but based on the evidence of the past two seasons, Leeds would be better off with the 31-year-old in the starting line-up for the visit to the Etihad Stadium next weekend. Equally, Cooper’s inclusion against Newcastle United on May 13 could be especially crucial given the Magpies’ tendency to blow teams away of late, and the part Cooper played at St James’ Park earlier this season when Leeds secured a 0-0 draw – their only away clean sheet of the campaign.