Robin Koch leaves Liam Cooper one shot to save Leeds United spot after imperious Max Wober partnership vs Brentford
Robin Koch’s yellow card against Brentford has given Liam Cooper a final chance to save his Leeds United career if he can return from injury in time.
The captain was said to be fit for involvement in the Premier League clash with Brentford on Sunday (22 January) according to Jesse Marsch in his pre-match press conference [13min 50sec].
But he wasn’t even named on the bench for the goalless draw as January signing Max Wober stepped in and produced an excellent performance alongside a hugely-improved Koch to keep Ivan Toney and company at bay with relative ease.
Given how porous the defence has so often been this year when cycling between Koch, Cooper and Diego Llorente, the new-look partnership surely made a sparkling pitch to hold the starting spots going forward.
At 31, entering the final year of his contract in the summer, and only belatedly preferred to Llorente this season despite the Spaniard’s lack of form, that would be a major threat to 259-appearance Cooper’s future at Elland Road.
That is especially the case given Koch is expected to join Pascal Struijk and, bafflingly, Llorente in receiving new long-term contracts at the club [The Athletic, 29 December].
Were Cooper unable to crack the line-up again immediately it would be fair to wonder when he would next get the opportunity, but Koch’s late booking as he battled Toney on Sunday has suspended him for the next match.
Cooper therefore has a race against time on his hands to get fit to grab that opportunity and prove why he still deserves to keep his place, with a return to training expected this week [Phil Hay, 22 January].
Marginally more effective overall than Llorente, the improvement in organisation and stability across the back line that was hoped for when the captain regained his starting role earlier this year never really materialised, and it was instead Wober who brought those qualities at the weekend.
The writing may be on the wall soon in Cooper’s case either way, although fellow veteran leader Luke Ayling looked to be done as a key contributor with the signing of Rasmus Kristensen in the summer and the success on loan of Cody Drameh and yet he has fought his was back and is the clear starter again.
At long last there appears to be an answer at centre-back in the form of a Wober-Koch combination but the door has been left ajar by the German’s suspension, so Cooper is going to need to take advantage of that before it slams shut.
In other Leeds United news, a Sky Sports pundit was baffled by something “very strange” that Marsch did on Sunday.