In an exclusive interview with Football FanCast, John Hartson has suggested that Arsenal need to play with five at the back to get the best out of David Luiz.
The former PSG defender’s transfer to Arsenal from Chelsea was one of the more surprising deals of the summer window due to the two clubs’ close rivalry.
However, he has had a tough start to life at the Emirates Stadium. Unai Emery’s side have struggled defensively with him in the side, conceding eight goals in four games.
In an attempt to give the 32-year-old the protection he needs, Hartson has suggested that Emery should change formation and bolster the backline.
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He said, “He’s got to play in a five because he has a bit of protection. I don’t think he’s an out-and-out defender. I think he switches off and his concentration levels over 90 minutes are just not there.”
The 44-year-old has also been quick to praise the technical ability of the central defender, and believes the Gunners need to unlock his quality.
“I think he’s a fantastic footballer. Technically he is fantastic for a centre half. He can hit free kicks, he can come out with the ball, he can pass it diagonally 60/70 yards.
“For £8m it’s a bargain for Arsenal – you’ve got to take him if he’s available. I think he’s better in the middle of a back three, so he’s got he got a little bit of protection either side of him.
“And then you’ve also got the wing backs that can also tuck in.”
It is an interesting thought process from the 52-time Wales international, and history suggests that it would be the best thing both for the centre-back and the team.
In 2016/17, Antonio Conte used three centre-backs and two wing-backs for much of the campaign, and the rewards were glaring. The Blues won the Premier League, picking up 93 points along the way and conceding just 33 goals. Luiz impressed throughout and was even named in the PFA Team of the Season.
His performances during that campaign displayed what he is capable of at his best. To see a return to that form, perhaps Emery needs to follow Conte’s template.