‘A 10 year old controlling a Playstation character’. That’s what Gary Neville had to say about our big-haired Brazilian, after an inept performance live on Sky Sports last season.
Fast, strong, and towering at 6ft 2, he certainly fits the mould of your typical central defender. Although that is where the comparison stops. Put a ball at his feet, and he looks straight at the opposition goalkeeper, whether he fancies a mazy run, or a 40 yard strike, not many people know quite what goes on inside that head of his.
Many people have toyed with the idea of him returning to his defensive-midfield position, where he has played for both Vitoria and Benfica, and being given the ability to roam, to let loose that ’10 year old on a Playstation’ tag, and use it to benefit the team.
Caught out a few times whilst playing in the Premier League, most Chelsea fans will agree he has almost assisted in some opposition goals in the past, maybe trying the right things, and completely the wrong time. For example, Cruyff turning on the edge of your six-yard box is not something many people would attempt, but its probably one of David Luiz’s trademark moves. He certainly makes the game more exciting.
No manager has consistently deployed him in that midfield role. Yet. However, with the terrible news that Oriel Romeu is out for the season, he may well get his chance. He was installed alongside Mikel there for the Monterrey game this morning, and had a stormer. Okay, it may not be Manchester United, or Barcelona, but everyone who watched, sat back and said, ‘I knew he could play there’.
Commentators were getting even more excited, drawing comparisons to Xabi Alonso and Yaya Toure, two veterans of the role, and although it may too early to say that, the core abilities are there for all to see. With the midfield role, you give the opportunity for the player to create attacks, and with our attacking quartet of Hazard, Mata, Oscar, and Torres, a quick ball, and you could easily stretch a team into a 4v4 or 4v5 situation, and with them four playing at their prime, you’d back them against anyone.
We saw flashes of brilliance against Monterrey, one particularly great 40 yard through ball to Hazard nearly bringing the opening goal, while several times we saw him beat one or two players in the middle, via a one-two, or sheer skill, putting Chelsea in great positions. He has the defensive nous to back that up aswell, of course being primarily a central-defender, gives him an advantage there. Of course, should he try something that doesn’t come off, he has one of the best back fours in England behind him to help out, whilst normally he would’ve just put Cech into shot-stopping practice.
Luiz certainly isn’t the type to crawl into his shell after making a mistake too, brushing himself down, and trying it again a minute later, is how he deals with things.
The move may well reap rewards off the pitch for Rafa as well. A Chelsea crowd who are notoriously hard to please, have been calling for this move for a while now, so should Benitez listen to them, he may well start to turn the crowd into ‘content’ mode rather than ‘disorderly’. Not forgetting Oriel Romeu’s injury, Roman Abramovich may well also be content he doesn’t have to reach for another midfielder, although no doubt he could conjure up a spare £20m by searching down the back of one of his unicorn skinned sofas that he owns.
No doubt we will see Luiz stationed in the role again for Sunday’s final, and hopefully against Leeds in the Capital One Carling Budweiser League Cup, and hopefully it will be the start of Luiz’s second coming.
Many apologies, but I just can’t sit comfortably watching a central-defender do this. (Sorry for the video quality, think it was taken amidst an earthquake..)
By Brad Smith