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Is David Luiz misunderstood?

Monday 11th February 2019

Brazil produces fine flair players. Chelsea’s ‘defender’, David Luiz, exudes the typical qualities of a flamboyant South American attacking footballer, not a Premier League based defender. It’s clear, he’s misunderstood.

Diadema, is a large town in the ABCD district of Sao Paulo. In terms of football, Luiz is the only player to achieve fame. The 31-year-old, however, is a creature cast to the dye upon his shirt and history. Wikipedia, Chelsea Football Club and the official Premier League website all list the Brazilian as a: ‘defender’. Yet, it is clear to see he is not.

Who remembers when he transferred back to Chelsea in 2016? Every football journalist was focused on just why PSG had paid £50m for him, then let him go for £34m after a very short stint in the French capital. Not only is it a ridiculous amount of money, but add in annual inflation and you’ve lost even more. What was also baffling the pundits is why Chelsea wanted him back. Sky Sports panellist, Graeme Souness, often shows his disdain towards the player and was vocal that he had mistakes in his game. In addition, former Chelsea employee, Ray Wilkins, at the same time omitted he never recognised the player as an out-and-out defender.

What is he then? Over the years he’s shown his ability with the ball at his feet. He can keep a ball and pass it. This is done on his time when he’s had the opportunity to plan it all out somewhere beneath that mane of hair. He calculates the best way to get his team going and does it. After he’s executed it he tends to drift away from the standardised centre-back position… and well… it’s a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He’s offering you superb attacking support. He can shoot from distance, too and like my colleague, Kingsley, reported - he's a fine attacking weapon. Yet this is where he can frustrate those in attendance at Stamford Bridge. He’s away from his defensive duties.

A prime example of this was the recent league game against AFC Bournemouth. The Brazilian was overzealous to pile forward, tried to his best to get back – but was flustered by this time and gifted a goal to the opposition. It’s these qualities that prove he’s not a defender. When presented with any offensive action, Luiz’s tactical mind goes into shutdown. The rule book is often discarded at this point, leaving Chelsea with a gaping hole because of his poor marking or even dismissal. He does not have the knack nor the concentration to defend for a complete 90 minutes. When he assists and scores, it’s not dwelled on - but when he doesn’t and lets the team go down, he’s put under the microscope.

The other day even, his performance in the game against Manchester City was futile. Social media channels concentrated on Chelsea have been flooded with anti-Luiz content for his string of poor games. Former Pensioners midfielder, now actor and general badass, Vinnie Jones, has even felt the need to comment about how the Brazilian shies away from responsibility when Chelsea lose. Jones largely blamed his poor play on why Chelsea lost 6-0.

Lest we not forget his extraordinary display against Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-final with the Brazilian national team. This was during his PSG days, not Chelsea and he seemingly refused to play any recognised position throughout the duration of the match. Brazil went on to lose 7-1.

What for Luiz, then? What is he? He’s a midfielder. The statistical data sites all list his ‘secondary position’ as ‘defensive midfielder’. Blah, blah, blah. He’s a central midfielder constrained to the thoughts of yesteryear, shackled to the beliefs of men who are unwilling to rock the boat at Stamford Bridge.

Under Conte’s rule, Luiz was subjected to a few experiments with his position. He was given the role of a ball-playing centre-back which actually suited him in the year Chelsea won the title under this particular Italian’s supremacy. It, however, didn't exonerate the typical centre-back defined role.

His processes and prowess are suited to, what my editor describes as the most important role on the pitch. The midfield. He’s up and down the pitch like a centre-midfielder and makes opportunities like an attacking and creative player would. It’s amazing he can do it from range right now, but imagine the capabilities of this player should be placed higher up the field. In theory, he would get more assists and score himself on a more regular basis, getting Chelsea forward in games and up the league table.

Luiz is now 31 years old and six years into his Chelsea career. Is this the time to drastically change his starting position? Well, it’s now or never. He got away with his torrid defending in other leagues because the level of competition wasn’t enough to challenge him or his team. He played for Benfica and won a lot there, PSG doesn’t really need to defend when they win every game regardless, but in the Premier League, he’s evidently lost at the back.

Who would have him? Well, there might be a raft of clubs who might take a plunge on him. In the summer he will no longer be employed by Chelsea football club, thusly becoming a free agent, as his contract only runs until the 30th of June, 2019. Whether he’s renewed by Chelsea or joining a new club, he should seriously consider positional demands as part of his contract negotiations to ensure he enjoys the last years of his career.

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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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