When the eccentric Brazilian joined Chelsea in 2011, it became clear the Blues had a character on their hands. As a defender, his quirky style of play and attacking tendencies led some fans to consider him a liability. He was confident and casual – sometimes too much – and when defensive frailties surfaced, he often found himself at the centre of the scrutiny. Luiz flirted with a defensive midfield role that was far better suited to his game, allowing the Brazilian to express himself more freely higher up the field without placing unnecessary pressure on the defence. There were moments of magic with stunning goals and technical ability including that unique free-kick style which remains to this day. There were early signs that Chelsea had made a sound acquisition and he would prove to be an integral part of the Champions League and FA Cup triumphs under Roberto Di Matteo in 2012. This was just the start for Luiz who successfully worked his way into the hearts of Chelsea supporters in the years to come.
Arguably, we perhaps saw the best of Luiz at Chelsea under Antonio Conte from 2016-17. The Italian inherited a fractured squad devoid of confidence after a dismal 2015/16 campaign. He revolutionised the team with that 3-4-3 formation and transformed the Blues into Premier League champions in his first season. Luiz was an integral part of that back three and it was almost as if Conte had nurtured a fresh sense of maturity in the centre-back. Conte was successful in finding the key to unlock Luiz’s defensive potential. He was calm, assured and reliable and the complacency that characterised his early days was no more. He understood his defensive duties and contributed in an attacking sense just as effectively, utilising his exquisite range of passing to get Chelsea on the front foot without stepping out of position. He wasn’t the new kid on the block anymore trying to make a name for himself. He was that established figure who was seen by those around him as a source of guidance and inspiration.
The impact a player has off the pitch can be just as crucial as the part they play on the field. Luiz oozes confidence with an infectious personality but he has tailored his wild side with age, substituting this with an ability to recognise when it’s necessary to keep things simple. Last summer, it became clear that the Brazilian was not going to get as much playing time at Stamford Bridge with the emergence of Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori returning from loan spells and edging ahead of him in the defensive pecking order. His destination was somewhat surprising for both Chelsea and Arsenal, who secured Luiz’s services for £8million. Some fans may have seen this as an experienced signing while others showed reservations. The Gunners desperately needed a defensive leader who could organise and sure up their backline. However, this was a divisive move with some of the Arsenal faithful unable to ignore the ‘liability’ reputation that has lingered over Luiz’s head throughout his career in England.
There is uncertainty over the structure of the summer transfer window however, that has not stopped clubs from chasing deals and rumours from swirling. Luiz’s future at the Emirates has been called into question with suggestions that contract extension talks may have come to a grinding halt. However, the writer believes that Mikel Arteta might get the best out of Luiz using a formation which the Brazilian has previously thrived in – the back three. Arsenal have the tools to recreate this with Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares, Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney capable of playing higher up the pitch as wingbacks. In this scenario, Luiz would have defensive cover either side of him and the deep-lying midfielders in front which may provide reassurance and allow him to play more comfortably. From an attacking sense, his excellent range of passing must be utilised. If he can pick out the wingbacks higher up the pitch then Arsenal would be able to stretch their opponents, getting on the front foot and taking the pressure of their defence. Arteta will be keen to reach an amicable solution regarding Luiz’s future; the writer believes that by staying put, Luiz can earn the recognition which his under-appreciated evolution deserves.
Have Your Say
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