Leeds United picked up their first Premier League win and clean sheet of the season last weekend as they beat Watford 1-0 at Elland Road.
Whites centre-back Liam Cooper played an important role in the result, with an excellent WhoScored rating of 7.27 for his performance. He made one tackle, one interception, two clearances and two blocks, whilst also winning two aerial battles.
The Scotland international has had a solid start to the Premier League campaign and has started all seven of the club’s matches so far, proving himself to be a key member of Marcelo Bielsa’s squad.
Would anyone have predicted this after the 2017/18 season at Elland Road? Cooper played 30 times in the Championship and averaged a rating of 6.83, as Leeds finished 13th in the table and had little in the way of promotion expectations for the future.
In September 2018, Transfermarkt valued the centre-back at a measly £900k. That summer, however, everything changed for Leeds and Cooper as Marcelo Bielsa was appointed as the head coach on an initial two-year deal.
The Argentine manager has since gone on to lead Leeds to third and first in the Championship, winning promotion with the latter, and then ninth in the Premier League last season. He has been able to take the club from midtable mediocrity in the second tier to competing at the top level whilst pulling off a coaching masterclass with some of the players, one of them being Cooper.
In the 2019/20 promotion season, Cooper averaged a sensational WhoScored rating of 7.29 in 38 Championship starts for the Whites. This was a marked improvement from the 6.83 he managed in his last season before Bielsa came through the door, with the Yorkshire-born Scotsman being named in the PFA Team of the Year.
The Leeds warrior was then able to make the step up to the Premier League and thrive under Bielsa’s management last season. He averaged a score of 7.11 as he captained the side to a top-half finish, making an impressive 3.2 tackles and interceptions per game.
At the time of writing (10/10 /21), Cooper is valued at £6.30m by Transfermarkt. This is a 600% increase from his value at the time of Bielsa’s appointment and shows how the Argentine has pulled off a masterclass in coaching with the defender.
Bielsa has been able to turn Cooper into a player capable of producing excellent, consistent, performances in top-flight, having been a solid, albeit uninspiring, player in the second-tier beforehand. This shows the 66-year-old’s coaching ability and why he has been an inspired appointment at Elland Road.