Liam Cooper’s role as Leeds United captain should make him an automatic pick for everyone in the heart of defence, so you’d think.
Leeds’ entire fanbase has never quite been convinced by the skipper, though, despite Marcelo Bielsa’s unwavering faith in the 30-year-old.
However, the Scotland international is arguably enjoying his best spell as a Premier League player as Leeds attempt to haul themselves up the table.
On Tuesday night, there was another clean sheet for Cooper and Leeds as they beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Elland Road.
Cooper put in a real shift, too.
What do the stats say?
From a defensive point of view, Cooper’s contribution is incredible: six interceptions, 22 ball recoveries, seven clearances and a 100% success rate when it comes to his aerial duels.
In possession, Cooper helped Leeds build against Palace with 79 passes, 87% of which were successful.
Importantly, Cooper’s stoppage time header struck the arm of Marc Guehi in the Palace penalty area, handing Raphinha the chance to win the game for Leeds. A chance he took.
In on merit
There’s often extra critique on Cooper’s performances from supporters given where he’s come from at Leeds. Flurries of criticism are something he’s had to deal with despite leading Leeds from the Championship to ninth in the Premier League.
No fan can honestly say they have never been critical of Cooper in his time at the club.
For me, there have been times when I’ve felt his place in the side comes because he is Bielsa’s captain. That feeling stemmed from last season when, in my opinion, Pascal Struijk and Diego Llorente looked Leeds’ best centre-back pairing.
Cooper, though, has proved me wrong and his performance against Palace was the latest in a long line of top-class outings.
For the first time in Leeds’ short spell back in the Premier League, Cooper is in the side on merit.