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David Luiz - Why I owe you an apology

Tuesday 16th May 2017
Chelsea have  won the Premier League and David Luiz has been outstanding at the heart of their defence. Here is why I owe the Brazilian centre-half an apology.
I was flabbergasted when Paris Saint-Germain deemed David Luiz a £50 million player. With Jose Mourinho entering the fray at Chelsea and his unquenchable thirst for boredom at the back, the unpredictable, sprightly, sometimes-effective-but-sometimes-stupid Luiz would never have fitted. He was, quite simply, a risk, and Mourinho wanted safety.

And I wholly agreed. Luiz, while a player of enormous talent and clear ability, was lacking mentally to ever develop into a defender. Midfielder? Maybe. But Chelsea had signed Nemanja Matic just six months prior to enforce the bruising, battling, bullying anchor role at the heart of the midfield. There was simply no need for Luiz in midfield and no want in defence.

But PSG, with their unending rolls of cash, believed that he was worth investing in. Fast forward just two seasons, and that was clearly an unwise decision. While they got solid performances from the Brazilian, partnering his international teammate, Thiago Silva, they sold him for just £34 million, proving that his value had depreciated during his time there. And the club to buy him was, astonishingly, Chelsea, this time with fellow defensive stalwart Antonio Conte at the helm.

It was another confusing signing. Given the astute addition of N'Golo Kante earlier in the window, the anticipated development of Kurt Zouma, the presence of Gary Cahill, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic, it was difficult to see where Luiz entered the picture. And yet, Conte, turning the tables completely, not only decided to pursue the enigmatic defender, but then anchored his defence on him, starting him at the heart of his three-at-the-back system that is now, after a revolutionary campaign, seemingly taking the Premier League by storm.

And very much like when PSG signed Luiz from Chelsea initially, I was stumped as to why Conte, a manager who is the archetypal Italian, both in his passion and his preparations, would rest the state of his defence on the prerogatives of a player as uncertain and unruly as Luiz. But, as we all know, Luiz has proceeded to have an ever-present season at Chelsea, forming a dominating, suffocating trio alongside Gary Cahill and the criminally underrated Cesar Azpilicueta, showing a willingness to defend that I did not envisage possible for a player who had been exposed mentally so many times before.

After a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Friday night, Chelsea confirmed their name as champions for the second time in three years, extending Conte's run of successive league titles to four - three with Juventus before he was appointed Italy manager and now once with Chelsea. It was a far-from-vintage display, squeezing past a resolute and resilient, but ultimately middling, Premier League side. But it was nonetheless a win, one that was founded on a defensive effort that merited a clean sheet.

Luiz, while a player who had shown obvious flaws in his game, has been able to grow and develop as a footballer. He has continued to learn, continued to work hard, and continued to improve. And that is a mightily impressive and rare feat, especially at the highest level. I was wrong about him, and for that, I apologise.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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