David Luiz is regarded as one of football’s most joyful and erudite characters off the pitch, but his presence on the field certainly divides opinion. In keeping with his Brazilian roots, the 31-year-old is endowed with great flair and refined skills, yet, his propensity to commit crucial mistakes has long been a critical flaw in his game.
Having been utterly and unapologetically shunned by Antonio Conte, his immediate future at Chelsea was precarious during the summer transfer window. Before the start of this campaign, Luiz’s last involvement in the Premier League occurred in a 4-1 drubbing at Watford.
The Brazilian defender confessed that he would have left the club for the second time had Conte sustained his post as the Blues’ manager, but the arrival of Maurizio Sarri and his exact footballing principles have been a godsend to Luiz’s career in South West London.
Without question, the arrival of Sarri has significantly altered the career trajectory of a man who spent most of last season being ostracised at a club that he adores.
The former Napoli manager’s desire and admiration of ball-playing centre-halves has been of immeasurable benefit to Luiz, who has been permanently reinstated at the heart of the Chelsea defence.
Naturally, the Italian’s tenure as Chelsea manager remains in its infancy, though it’s fair to declare Luiz as the primary beneficiary of his appointment. While recognising that Luiz benefitted from an extended summer (due to his absence from the World Cup) he deserves credit for swiftly acclimatising himself with Sarri’s demands and philosophy. His conduct and tenacity have been equally admirable.
At the epicentre of the defence, the Brazilian international has formed a surprising partnership with Antonio Rudiger, but the dynamic has been a fruitful one to date.
In eight league games, the Blues have only conceded five goals, registering a commendable total of four clean sheets. The experienced centre-half has often been an integral figure this season, as was best epitomised by his heroic last-ditch defending in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
Similarly, while his involvement has been meaningful in the defensive phase, Luiz’s technical qualities and general understanding has proven to be tremendously beneficial when in possession.
As has been a longstanding feature of his game, Luiz is capable of penetrating defences with his refined range of passes, and due to his ball-playing skills, he’s able to play his way out of potentially problematic situations.
This isn’t to suggest that his return to prominence at Chelsea has been entirely flawless, Luiz was culpable for Newcastle United’s equaliser in the 2-1 victory in August, and his mistake led to the opening goal in the Blues’ 4-1 triumph against Cardiff City. Having said that, as the team have grown more apparent with Sarri’s vision, Luiz’s influence has augmented, and his performances warrant praise.
At the age of 31, with many anticipating the conclusion of his career in England’s top-flight, Luiz deserves immense recognition for the manner in which he has revived his Chelsea career and his receptiveness to his manager’s concepts and ideas.
As is the case with most reputable teams, competition is rife, and many supporters, myself included, acknowledge Andreas Christensen as the natural successor to Luiz. The Danish international flaunts similar characterises to Luiz and is nine years younger than his fellow centre-half.
However, if Luiz succeeds in sustaining his current degree of excellence, it would be mightily harsh to divest him of his position. Indeed, the Brazilian is approaching the latter stages of his career, yet, following on from John Terry’s example, Luiz is displaying that older players can continue to impact proceedings purposefully.
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