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David Luiz isn't as funny in person

Wednesday 18th September 2019
David Luiz Arsenal Ios Warren Smith

Brazilian defenders don't gain the legendary status of their attacking counterparts. "Remember the time Thiago Silva..." just doesn't come up in conversation like references to Pele, Ronaldo or Neymar. Defenders are supporting characters without the media presence of their attacking betters. You could argue David Luiz is an exception but it's because he's a defender in name only. While his set pieces are magical and he can spark a counterattack like an arsonist with a lorry-full of kerosene and a Zippo lighter, his defending is comic relief.

Viewed from afar, his attempted interventions were always good for a laugh. At Chelsea, he was regularly caught out and the media magnified it. He was hilarious. Now, that he's at Arsenal, the joke suddenly isn't so funny.

Four games into his North London career, he's given away two penalties. Both were converted. This represents a crisis. Having played 160 games for Chelsea, Sideshow Dave only caused referees to point to the spot on three occasions. He's stepped it up at the Emirates.

With 53 games between each gaffe, Stamford Bridgers would complain more about other aspects of his defending or celebrate his appearance in midfield. At this rate, however, he'll be gifting opponents a goal every other game with the next scheduled against Manchester United. Prop bet anyone? 

At least he always had a capable partner to exercise a measure of damage control at the Bridge. John Terry, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger. Unfortunately, Sokratis isn't at that level in the twilight of his career. He was responsible for the spot-kick against Watford. Of course, if Luiz hadn't whiffed on his clearance like a Sunday duffer on the links, the Greek wouldn't be so red-faced. 

When his chance for a penalty arrived, Luiz rushed over to Roberto Pereyra whose progress was already impeded by Sead Kolasinac. He stuck out a leg to trip him anyway. Leave it to the Brazilian to provide unnecessary cover.

Luiz made other errors against the Hornets. Between the two goals, he embraced Ismaila Sarr like a long-lost relative but still failed to halt his progress. Luckily the Senegalese fizzed his shot beyond the bar. The 21-year-old continued to disrespect his elder well into stoppage time, nearly finding a winner.

Arsenal fans expect more. Errors are part and parcel of football but you want to say the guilty party worked to make amends. By the 83rd minute, it was apparent Luiz was no longer interested. With the ball pumped into the box, an imminent threat looming, Luiz had no hustle. He was out for a Sunday stroll. That's unforgivable.

While Arsenal's defence is largely Swiss cheese, there are options to replace the errant Luiz. Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are full-backs but the manager is one to tinker with players' roles. Why not here? Both are set to return from injury. Their pace and ingenuity are needed on the outside, but an older, experienced head like Nacho Monreal or even a young, industrious Ainsley Maitland-Niles might serve in the middle.

Arsenal's central defensive corps proper includes Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers. The latter made his lone appearance in the season opener against Newcastle, kept a clean sheet and hasn’t been seen since. Doesn't he deserve another opportunity? Injured, Holding will test his dodgy knee in the Europa League tomorrow, offering hope for another option. Mustafi hasn't seen action since pre-season, indicating that Emery can make the odd correct decision.

If someone else can come in and do a job, the Spaniard should either relegate Luiz to cup and continental duty or as cover for Granit Xhaka in midfield. As it stands, he is a liability to Arsenal.

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Warren Smith

Yokohama F•Marinos supporter. Seen it all in the J.League, relegation fights and being crowned champions. Play five-a-side, pretty good too. Once scored an overhead kick.

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