By Dan Carter

12th Nov, 2023 | 1:10pm

Liam Cooper wastes opportunity to save Leeds United career with weak display v Plymouth Argyle

Leeds United headed into the November international break with yet another Championship win as they picked up all three points against Plymouth Argyle.

For much of the game, it was one-way traffic, with Daniel Farke’s side repeatedly attacking Michael Cooper’s net and the Whites seemed to be cruising to a win thanks to first-half strikes from Dan James and Joel Piroe.

There was a late scare as Ben Waine halved the deficit in the 84th minute, but Leeds’ managed to hold on to secure all three points. However, it would have been frustrating for those in the Whites’ backline to lose their clean sheet so late in the contest.

One man who would have been particularly irritated would have been Liam Cooper, with the Leeds United captain making his first Championship start since September as he replaced Pascal Struijk who missed the clash with injury.

The Scottish international had a difficult afternoon despite the Whites’ dominance, as he lost three of the four ground duels that he entered and won only three of the six aerial battles he contested as he played the full 90 minutes at Elland Road [Fotmob].

Cooper did win his only tackle in the game but was dribbled past once, more than any other member of the Leeds backline and mistimed two challenges as he committed two fouls in the game to put pressure back on the home side.

On the ball, it was a reasonably easy afternoon for the 32-year-old who completed 88 per cent of his attempted 89 passes, but that is to be expected considering Farke likes his defenders to very rarely aim long with their efforts. Only four of Cooper’s passes were considered “long” and only 50 per cent of them were completed.

It was by no means a disastrous afternoon for the Leeds’ skipper, but he was shown up by his centre-back partner Joe Rodon, who won seven of the eight duels he contested and won two more tackles than Cooper in a dominant defensive display.

Following the November international break, Farke may be forced to play Cooper again should Struijk remain sidelined with injury, but it is hard to imagine that the Scot will keep the Dutchman out of the side when he returns to fitness.

While there were no glaringly obvious mistakes in his performance, there was little to suggest that he is a better option long-term than Struijk. Cooper seriously needs to lift his performance levels to keep his place in the backline long-term.

In other Leeds news, Graham Smyth has shared an update on Sam Byram after his injury against Plymouth