The Bottom Line On... David Luiz
Is David Luiz a misunderstood talent or stealing a living? Our resident football writers Scott Newby and Neil Tully give their view.
For David Luiz...
David Luiz is a man with more trophies than many good footballers. There are other criteria for assessing the merits of a player, but none less subjective than titles won. Luiz has amassed 18 winners’ medals - more than one a season. This includes the Champions League, Europa League (x2) and a Premier League winners medal with Chelsea in 2016/17. A feat Steven Gerrard could only dream of. Luiz returned to Chelsea on the last day of the August 2016 transfer window. By October, Chelsea went 6 games without conceding a goal with Luiz in the back three. An ever-present after signing, Luiz was key to Chelsea’s success, cemented by his inclusion in the Premier League Team of the Year. One of 10 individual honours he has received. Not bad for a flop. Only two years after Brazil lost 7-1 to Germany, this bouncebackability says as much about Luiz’s character as his ability. A career of ups and downs, but how many players who tested themselves in numerous countries have been a success at every club? Was Shevchenko a bad player? Forlan just a flop? In fact, in any line of work, have you always performed to the same standards at every job, irrespective of role, manager or culture? Thought not. Luiz - a defensive midfielder? Not for me, more a centre half who is best deployed in the middle of a back three. Very few have played this role better in recent times. Maybe if other managers had employed him that way, he would now be more revered than ridiculed. At 33, a man of character could yet have the last laugh with one more title up his sleeve. And if not, he will just have to make do with polishing the 28 trophies he already has at home.
The Bottom Line is, can 18 winner’s medals across numerous domestic and European competitions be wrong? 1 trophy maybe, 2 trophies…could be a fluke but 18 (eighteen)…you decide.
Against David Luiz...
Poor David Luiz. The serial title winner reduced to a gif of Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes. When asked to write a case against Luiz’s abilities, I was tempted to simply submit a YouTube compilation of his biggest gaffes. It’s important to note that I recognise Luiz’s talent. Every player that makes it to the top is talented, and our pub-based arguments about how ‘shit’ somebody is, are all relative. So relatively speaking, when compared to the best of whatever position Luiz is deployed at, the Brazilian is supremely shit.
That point raises the key issue. For a 33-year-old who is likely nearing his end for big sides from top leagues, nobody is sure of his best role. Fair enough for a young talent, but for a player in their twilight years, it points to deficiencies that are exposed wherever Luiz’s managers gamble on playing him. Centre half and defensive midfielder are simply not positions where Luiz’s tendency to forget he is on a football pitch can be disguised. Luiz’s concentration is a fatal flaw. It has led to more errors leading directly to goals than Phil Jones in a similar number of league games. With a similar tackle success and less interceptions and clearances than the much-derided Englishman, Luiz’s worth is unclear.
Luiz’s career is brilliantly captured by that horrific night in Belo Horizonte in 2014. Carried to great heights by talented teammates ( as he was at club level), without Thiago Silva to partner him, Luiz was hopelessly lost, turning in arguably the worst defensive display the World Cup has ever seen as Germany humiliated Brazil 7-1.
The Bottom Line is that as he nears retirement, David Luiz still isn’t sure what exactly he’s best at. Neither are we. The odd thirty yard free kick doesn’t compensate for that.
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