The first game after “Project Restart” played host to a pretty torrid performance from David Luiz. It’s become a far too familiar thing for Arsenal fans – playing fairly well, one defensive calamity and then trying to play catch up after conceding the first goal.
It’s almost expected for Arsenal defenders to make cruical mistakes these days. Shkodran Mustafi has been exceptional for Arsenal in 2020, and whilst some will hype his current run of form as a new beginning, others will be anxiously expecting him to make another error.
David Luiz poses the same problem for Arsenal fans. After the 3-0 less against Manchester City, pundits were suggesting that would be Luiz’s last game for Arsenal. He has played 2 league games since then, whilst also signing a 1 year extension to his contract.
So why is he still playing for Arsenal?
So it is important to acknowledge that for the most part, David Luiz is a very, very good player. His ball distribution is exceptional, his organisational skills are often overlooked and he does possess many leadership qualities that all top teams require – qualities that Arsenal have lacked in recent memory.
Furthermore, he hasn’t always been error prone. Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012, largely due to the defensive contributions of David Luiz and the other defenders around him. Also, within Antonio Conte’s Premier League winning side, David Luiz was the centerpiece of that defensive trio and looked like one of the world’s elite centre-backs.
So why does any of this matter at Arsenal?
Firstly, it appears as though Mikel Arteta has decided to use Luiz in a back 3 – similiar to the setup that he played in at Chelsea under Conte. This guarantees Luiz more space to play the more ambitious and creative passes he has in his locker.
Also, there is some uncertainty over the future of some of Arsenal’s other centre-backs. Calum Chambers and Sokratis look likely to move on in the summer, and if Arteta intends on using a back 3 next season, David Luiz is a proven commodity in that central role where Arsenal’s other defenders do have question marks.
Lastly, as previously noted, Luiz is actually very good. Those moments of calamity aren’t as frequent as many seem to make out and what he does bring to the table is a strong mentality that allows him to bounce back from any individual errors and just get on with playing his game. His game is rarely average too, it’s often excellent.
This doesn’t mean David Luiz is the man to take Arsenal to the next level though, merely that he is a good player to have whilst we are building a team for the here and now. To put it plainly, David Luiz is to Arsenal what Dejan Lovren was to Liverpool before they signed Virgil Van Dijk. Arsenal aren’t ready for a Van Dijk to take them to that level yet. When they are, Luiz will not be part of their plans.
Photo: Visit Rwanda (2019)