He came and he conquered us all! His skill, passion, commitment and Sideshow Bob style hair cut persuaded Roman to make him the most expensive centre back in CFC’s history.
He has to be the one of the quickest cult heroes at Stamford Bridge ever, yet despite all this, he has not been able to cement a starting place in the Brazil line-up – So much so, he was not even used as a substitute in Copa America.
There have been apprehensions among some CFC fans about his positioning, showmanship and reckless tackles, as well as debates about what his best position in the line-up is but let us put that into perspective.
David Luiz arrived in Vitória at the age of 14 after being released by Sao Paulo for being too small, he started life out as a defensive midfielder. But the manager was unhappy and he moved him into central defence, where he adapted well and got his side promoted to second division of the Portuguese league. In January 2007, he joined Benfica on loan for the season. After impressing in his loan spell, he signed a five-year deal with Benfica and played most of the 2009 season as a left back, before the emergence of Centrao which saw him move back into the centre.
After being linked with him for more than a year, we managed to beat Man City to his signature on January 31,2011. He made a 20 min cameo in our loss to Liverpool, yet managing to impress at both right back and centre back (often switched positions with Ivanovic). His first start for us in them middle of the defence against Fulham, where he stamped his name in the hearts of Stamford Bridge with an exhilarating performance (which included a incredible bicycle kick cross for Kalou, which he sadly headed over), despite conceding a late penalty in a 0-0 draw.
He further confirmed his status as cult hero by scoring a brilliant right footed volley against Man United to draw us level. His performances raised him to a cult hero, despite this he showed some obvious weaknesses. It was evident in the title decider at Old Trafford, a goal conceded in the first min, after a through ball beat Luiz easily, and found him out of position and thus put a significant dent in our hopes of a late title challenge.
Just see the chalkboard above to see how Luiz’ passes during the game against Fulham, as you can see, some excellent variation for a centre back – it is just astonishing. I have only shown the Fulham chalkboard as an example but there have been many matches where he has done the same,. It leaves me asking what is his best position? He tends to get too easily tempted towards the ball, and is not comfortable when he is being attacked one-on-one (last season, too many got past him far too easily). His strength seems to be his unflinching attitude, interceptions and strong tackles – I personally feel, central defensive midfield is the right position for him.
The problem with Luiz is not his positioning or showmanship as many feel, but it is his appetite for the ball and action which results in him being dragged out of position. A classic example was that game against United when he was responsible for the early goal. As a defensive midfielder, he will have an opposition man to watch all the time, and will constantly be involved. Essien, received about 2100 passes last year, which was the highest in the league. So, if Luiz is given the same amount of ball, with his ability, pace and range of passing, he can initiate many attacks.
He reads the game very well and his interceptions are wonderful, which is crucial for a player in that position. He’s a quick thinker and has fantastic range of passing – Just watch from minute 04.15 to 04.35 in the video below, to see how he intercepts, gets the ball and quickly plays a long through ball only for Torres to miss.
In the same video, watch the last minute as Dempsey carries the ball only for Luiz to make a needless challenge, just like he did on Rooney when he was fortunate not to be sent off. It is better to have those kinds of challenges outside the box.
He can always run with the ball or play the ball from the defensive midfield player and will have cover behind him. If this move happen, it might just make us more creative and effective in the middle and the same goes for Brazil. They are playing with Lucas and Ramires in the centre which makes their midfield work very hard but lack creativity. Luiz instead of either player would give them a better opportunity for good passes to their gifted forwards.
Jose Mourinho converted Gudjohnsen from a striker to a central attacking midfielder, a step backward with respect to his position. Andre Villa-Boas, with his attacking mentality, might just ask Luiz to make a step forward and play as defensive midfielder.
Who knows? We might just have to rename ‘The Makelele Role’ …
Venkat M S S