Photo: Sky Sports
David Luiz, the controversial Brazilian footballer, transferred to the Gunners last summer from London rivals Chelsea, in a move that like many other aspects about Luiz, sparked debate across the Premier League on whether this is one smart bid, or will it turn out to be a disaster.
Some said that his trophy-winning experience, hard work and versatility on the field is what the young squad needed, whilst others claimed that his inconsistency and errors on the field make him a liability to a back side that is already challenged. Online sports-betting apps and bookie websites were giving odds for and against Arsenal’s success with the 33 year-old Brazilian national.
At the beginning, it seemed the doubters got it right, when Luiz gave a terrible performance against Liverpool in Anfield, letting Mo Salah give him a round around, conceding a senseless penalty that Liverpool converted into their second goal of the match, and was caught completely off for Liverpool’s third goal of the match, leaving Arsenal down 3-1. In September against Watford, a silly challenge on Roberto Pereyra allowed Watford to convert and equalize late in the match.
But things seemed to be changing for Luiz once Arsenal let go of manager Unai Emery and replaced him with Mikel Arteta who apparently had more planned for Luiz as a prominent member of the Arsenal squad. And Luiz stepped up and marked significant improvement, as he is now pushed to use his full range of passing and mobility around the half. This gives the Gunners a chance to be more compact without the ball and defend better.
One of the landmarks of Luiz’s improvement was Arsenal’s New Year’s Day match against Manchester United, where the gunners gave a superior performance that left Manchester without any ability to retaliate. Luiz was the Man of the Match on that day. Two weeks after, Luiz was again dominating whilst Arsenal drew 1-1 at Crystal Palace.
It seems that Arteta expects Luiz to step up and assume leadership both on and off the pitch. Luiz who is buying into the role said in an interview to ESPN Brazil: “The thing that most impressed,” Luiz said, “was on the day [Arteta] arrived, he brought everyone at the club together, not just the players.” When speaking to Ian Wright about working with Arteta, Luiz said that he is “Still learning, still improving, still seeing how beautiful football is.”
Arteta from his side also praised Luiz’s emerging leadership when he said: “David Luiz wants to be a coach in the future…I can see he has the attributes, the knowledge and experience to be a coach one day.” This type of relationship between a young coach and senior player is important to a young squad like Arsenal has now, and Luiz’s positive energy is infectious.
So whether you think of David Luiz as one of the best centre backs in the world, or a clown with a funny haircut that makes silly, unforced errors, he seems to be exactly what a team like Arsenal needs at this time to take it back to greatness. He’s far from perfect, but he’s the right man, at the right time to do the job.