Ollie Cooper entered the 2022/23 season shrouded in uncertainty. Aged 22, with limited senior experience, there was no guarantee that boyhood club Swansea City would renew a contract set to expire the following summer. However, Cooper, now 23, has transformed his prospects this season: with 23 Championship starts, and tied down until 2027, he recently earned his first international cap for Cymru.
Often playing as an advanced midfielder in a possession-dominant system, much of Cooper’s value has been derived from his intelligent movement. He’s not a touch heavy player, and primarily works to engineer space ahead of the ball.
Cooper varies his movements well. A player with strong spatial awareness, he capably stretches in-behind, identifies pockets of space or rotates out wide depending on the broader context. He perceptively uses smaller manoeuvres to open passing lanes and pin opponents. All of these movements are sharp: Cooper anticipates openings well and times his runs with precision, often emerging from opponent’s blind spots, enabling further separation.
When found in space, his receptions are productive. Comfortable receiving on either foot, he shapes his body positively, letting the ball run across him, or receiving on the spin. He’s not always as constructive in tighter spaces. The weighting of his first touch is occasionally inconsistent, and he can struggle to withstand physical pressure. With a fairly slight 5’9” frame, Cooper rarely enjoys physical dominance when shielding, but he’d benefit from lowering his centre of gravity and an even spreading of weight.
Cooper’s most notable progressive actions often rely on astute movement. He appears stiff as a dribbler, best suited to locating spaces that allow for carries into open areas. Likewise, he’s a safe passer – even within Swansea’s retention oriented system – primarily attempting penetrative balls when he receives against an exposed backline.
Undoubtedly committed to the defensive aspects of his role, Cooper presses well. When stepping out of midfield to apply pressure, he tends to scan carefully, curving his run to cover passing lanes. He has a good engine, and the intelligence and intensity that characterise much of his game extend into his defensive actions.
In the short-term, it’s difficult to envisage Cooper leaving Swansea City. Establishing himself at senior level for his boyhood club is an achievement worth building on, and if Swansea manager Russell Martin is backed to grow the club into play-off contenders, there’s scope for Cooper to develop in tandem. As a caveat to this, Cooper is a player currently benefiting from a highly structured system, and his ability to adapt to more spontaneous attacking patterns should be questioned before any future transfer.