Leeds can overcome Liam Cooper’s loss by making simple tweak

This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more… 

When it was confirmed that Liam Cooper would miss up to six weeks of action, there were understandable concerns from supporters.

The Scot, newly capped by his country, has been an imperious figure under Marcelo Bielsa.

He was named in the PFA Team of the Year last season and has since gone onto miss just one game in the Championship this season. He’s also been handed a new deal at Elland Road.

The club captain obviously has a huge influence but the bitter blow of losing him is sure to be felt hard.

However, they can help overcome it by possibly changing systems.

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On the chalkboard

In his pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to Millwall, Marcelo Bielsa named five possible options to play in the centre of defence beside Ben White – Gaetano Berardi, Kalvin Phillips, Leif Davis, Pascal Struijk and Olly Casey.

Another option could be Luke Ayling too, someone who hasn’t played in that role for ten months, but can deputise if necessary.

Berardi seems the most likely choice after replacing Cooper last Tuesday and appearing comfortable but they could make up for their skipper’s absence by moving to a three-man defence, particularly on Saturday.

This is because it could present them more cover and also give them a helping hand against the colossal Matt Smith.

He has won over nine aerial duels per game this term and will pose a large threat, in more ways than one, to Leeds’ defence.

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Playing three central defenders and having one to sweep Smith and mark him tightly would be a good idea and it might help make the Whites more compact when defending deep – that’s if they find themselves in a situation where that’s required.

Berardi has already looked confident in a back three and that was seen when he kept a clean sheet and also scored against Salford. He also played in that system during Leeds’ 2-2 draw with Stoke in the Carabao Cup.

This defensive line could involve White, Berardi and also Phillips. The last two names played next to each other in those two League cup outings.

Who should play in Cooper's absence?

Berardi

Berardi

Struijk

Struijk

Ayling

Ayling

Bielsa operated with this formation last term and it worked significantly as Leeds failed to lose when utilising a three-man defence.

With Cooper missing, this should at least be thought about as an option for the Argentine.

It has worked in the past and could well work again if they need more cover now a key figure is absent.

Article title: Leeds can overcome Liam Cooper’s loss by making simple tweak

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