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Leeds star Liam Cooper compared to Stephen Warnock - Do the stats say decision was justified?

Who should play for Leeds at left-back against Sheffield Wednesday?

New Leeds United boss Darko Milanic threw a curveball into his team selection against Reading, selecting Liam Cooper at left-back.

Explaining the switch as tactical, it meant Stephen Warnock dropping to the bench, a player who had been one of the club's most consistent performers this season.

It did not backfire, with Leeds keeping a clean sheet, but whether Milanic intends on repeating the selection against Sheffield Wednesday is unclear. 

We took a look at how the two players compare...

Liam Cooper vs Reading

  PositionTeamMatchTackles wonInterceptionsEffective ClearancesAerial Duels WonPassing AccuracyFinal Third Passes
Liam Cooper DF Leeds Leeds vs Reading 5 0 5 100% 83% 3

Stephen Warnock season averages to date

  Tackles wonInterceptionsEffective ClearancesAerial Duels WonPassing AccuracyFinal Third PassesAppearances
Stephen Warnock 2.11 3.67 3.56 75% 87% 7.11 9

Cooper, a summer signing from Chesterfield, is more of a centre-back by trade, and admitted post-game that playing at left-back is not natural for him.

Aspects of his performance stood out however, winning more tackles against Reading than Warnock averages per game, and making a higher number of effective clearances.

Warnock, knowing the position in greater detail, uses that to read the game and make between three and four interceptions per game on average, while Cooper did not make any.

The former Aston Villa full-back also completes a higher percentage of his passes, and unsurprisingly is more comfortable going forward.

He has completed more than double the amount of passes in the final third per game, than Cooper did against Reading.

With Leeds struggling for goals suddenly, Milanic would do well to ditch the safety first approach against Sheffield Wednesday, and bring Warnock back in, especially after commenting how poor their play was in the final third against Reading.

Leeds are fortunate to have two different options, and it shows the strength of their squad. He will have gained a great deal from his experiment in midweek, the question now is whether it is one he intends to repeat.

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