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David Luiz: From laughing stock to Chelsea rock

Thursday 2nd February 2017
On Tuesday night, David Luiz put in a Man of the Match performance against Liverpool to help his side to a 1-1 draw. Since his return to Chelsea, the Brazilian has looked like a completely different player from the one Premier League fans used to poke fun at just a few years ago.

During his first spell at the London club, the Brazilian was a liability and other teams soon learnt that he could be the weak link in an otherwise solid Chelsea defence. He would try to dribble the ball out of the back and make risky passes in dangerous areas. For all his defensive capabilities, he always seemed vulnerable and on the verge of making a mistake.

Occasionally, there were moments when his behaviour was theatrical or unsportsmanlike. Back in 2013, Chelsea found themselves 1-0 up against Manchester United, and in the final few minutes, David Luiz was shielding the ball from Rafael in the corner. Right in front of lineswoman Sian Massey, Rafael viciously kicked out at fellow Brazilian, David Luiz and the reaction of the Chelsea man incensed United fans. After hitting the deck and clutching his foot, David Luiz appeared to be in pain but seconds later a camera caught him smiling and laughing at the incident. Rafael did receive a red card which the challenge fully deserved - but there was no need for David Luiz's childlike antics.
One year later, he signed for PSG for £50 million, becoming the most expensive defender to date. Perhaps it is this time in France that made David Luiz mature into a disciplined centre-back. He played alongside Brazilian teammate, Thiago Silva, who is one of the best defenders in the world in my opinion. During his short time at PSG, the club won a lot of trophies, achieving a domestic treble for two consecutive years. Last summer, David Luiz made a surprise return to Chelsea on transfer deadline day for £34 million.

I had few expectations for David Luiz when he returned to Chelsea but he has proved me wrong with countless strong performances this season. He appears to have suppressed his urge to be the centre of attention and has quietly, but effectively, carried out his defensive duties. As well as this, his decision making has vastly improved and he now knows when to pass the ball and when to clear it. Operating in a back three can be difficult to adapt to for a centre-half who is used to playing in a back four, however, David Luiz has excelled so far.

He has the responsibility of being the middle centre-back, a position that requires a great deal of leadership. This is another aspect of his game that has developed. In his old Chelsea days, David Luiz used to be silent on the pitch, just taking instructions from other players, but now it would seem that the student has become the master. He constantly commands César Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill and even the midfield players and this has contributed to Chelsea's fantastic shape this season.

In the Liverpool game on Tuesday, David Luiz also demonstrated how devastating his free-kicks can be. Ignoring the fact that Simon Mignolet was not ready and the wall should have jumped, the Brazilian's goal was incredible and actually extremely clever. David Luiz heard the whistle from Mark Clattenburg, noticed that Mignolet was not concentrating and struck the ball remarkably well. The side-footed technique he opts for from dead ball situations is tricky to deal with, to say the least, but his goal at Anfield emphasised why he should be taking long free-kicks for Chelsea.
For me, David Luiz has been the best centre-back in the Premier League this season and has become one of the most important players in a very organised Chelsea team. If he carries on performing at this exceptionally high level, The Blues will pick up more clean sheets, more victories and will secure the title with ease. David Luiz should also find himself in the PFA Team of the Year, providing his form continues.
Robert Wiltshire
I am a Creative Writing MA graduate with a love for playing, watching and writing about football.

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