Having missed 14 of Leeds United’s Premier League fixtures this season due to a hamstring injury sustained in December, Liam Cooper once again proved just how important he is to Jesse Marsch’s side in the Whites’ crucial 3-0 win over Watford on Saturday afternoon.
Indeed, over the course of the matches for which the 30-year-old was sidelined, Leeds picked up just 10 points from a possible 42 – a run which included just three victories, one draw and 10 defeats, with the Whites shipping a quite astonishing 43 goals in this period.
However, after making a return to the starting XI in the 1-1 draw against Southampton last week, when Cooper earned an impressive SofaScore match rating of 7.1, the Scotland international was again imperious in the heart of defence against the Hornets.
Indeed, over the course of the 90 minutes, the £6.3m-rated defender was undoubtedly Leeds’ most important player, making three clearances, five interceptions and three tackles and winning 10 of his 11 duels – a success rate of 91%.
Furthermore, Leeds Live journalist Beren Cross also handed the club captain an eight in his player ratings, stating of the 30-year-old’s display: “By far the best player on the pitch. Head and shoulders above the rest. Mopped up any danger which came through the backline, intercepted, anticipated, dominated in the air and always seem to play the right option, unlike so many others.”
It is likely that Raphinha will steal the headlines on Sunday morning, but considering Leeds’ frankly horrendous defensive record with the Scotland centre-back out of the team, and his dominating displays since returning to Marsch’s XI, it is clear to see just how crucial the player who Jack Collins dubbed “Ramos-esque” is for Leeds.