Max Wober signing will allow Leeds United to manage Liam Cooper better, says Jesse Marsch

Leeds United will use the signing of Max Wober to manage Liam Cooper's body better, according to coach Jesse Marsch.

The Whites captain has missed the last two matches with a recurrence of the knee problem he suffered in the warm-up before April’s Premier League game against Manchester City.

Cooper has made 18 appearances since Marsch took over from Marcelo Bielsa in late February 2022 but never more than three in a row. The Scotland centre-back technically played four consecutive games before the original FA Cup third-round tie with Cardiff City but the first took place before a six-week break for the World Cup.

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Leeds signed left-footed centre-back Max Wober this month partly because of his versatility – the Austrian can also play at full-back and in central midfield – but Marsch thinks his arrival should also help Leeds to get the best out of 31-year-old Cooper.

INJURY ISSUES: Leeds United captain Liam CooperINJURY ISSUES: Leeds United captain Liam Cooper
INJURY ISSUES: Leeds United captain Liam Cooper

Wober was excellent in Cooper's place as Leeds kept a Premier League clean sheet at home to Brentford on Sunday, striking up a good understanding with fellow German-speaker Robin Koch.

But Hull-born Cooper, who has been at the club since 2014, remains a key figure at Elland Road and Marsch is at pains to point out that Wober has not been bought to replace him.

"When I spoke to Liam about Max coming, I said it was another player similar to Pascal (Struijk) that can play left-back or centre-back," said Marsch, who previously managed Wober at Red Bull Salzburg.

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"I said one of the strategies is that it's been hard for Liam to train all week and be ready for a game and we need to get him into more of a rhythm where he's training and at a top level of fitness and not just preparing him for matches.

NEW FACE: Max Wober struck up a good understanding with Robin Koch (background) on SundayNEW FACE: Max Wober struck up a good understanding with Robin Koch (background) on Sunday
NEW FACE: Max Wober struck up a good understanding with Robin Koch (background) on Sunday

”Hopefully if we can provide him with a little bit more of a pause, we can create more longevity and top fitness for him along the way.

"Liam will continue to be a very important player for us, no doubt."

Some managers like the reliability a regular partnership in the heart of defence and rotate their more attacking players to give them more energy and freshness. Marsch's predecessor Bielsa liked to work with a tight core of just 18 senior first-team players.

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Marsch, though, has built up the squad and is aiming to mix things up much more, particularly if the club can have an overdue run in the FA Cup.

"Right now we're playing a lot of matches in a short amount of time," he said.

"Hopefully we can continue this cup run. We're really excited about the prospect of pushing ourselves in that tournament and then you need to have a full squad and a lot of guys clear and ready.

"Right now we feel like we have that."

Given Marsch’s attitude, it seems unlikely he will risk Cooper against lower-division opposition in Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round, meaning Wober is more than likely to make a third consecutive start at the heart of the defence.