Arsenal Centre-Back deserves a new contract, but unsurprising if he doesn’t get one.
In recent days, it has emerged via The Athletic and Sky Sports that Brazilian centre-back David Luiz, contrary to popular belief, signed a one-year deal when he joined Arsenal in 2019, with the option to extend for another year if desired. However, reports suggest that Arsenal have ‘no negotiations over a new deal planned’. This article will look at why Arsenal should seriously consider extending his current deal and keeping him for the 2020/21 season.
David Luiz has performed in many ways how many supporters expected him to when he moved across the capital on deadline day of 2019 for £8m. In his 25 league appearances, he has conceded three penalties, of which the pull back on Mohammed Salah at Anfield was the most typical of the David Luiz most expected to see at the club.
However, Luiz also averages 2 tackles and interceptions per game, as well as chipping in with 2 goals and completing 55 passes per game on average at an 85% success rate. He has been a mainstay at the heart of Arsenal’s back line, playing 2186 minutes, almost 500 more than Sokratis in 2nd place.*
Luiz has also been one of the players to experience an upturn in form since Arteta took charge, Arteta himself praising the player highly. Alongside Shkodran Mustafi, the 33 year old and the German have formed a surprisingly effective partnership at the heart of Arsenal’s defence.
Another important aspect that Luiz offers the club is player mentoring. He has worked closely with Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli and with hot-prospect William Saliba joining in the summer, it would make sense to keep Luiz around to help the Frenchman settle. The Brazilian also offers leadership qualities lacking in Arsenal’s defence, as well as through the squad more broadly, which can in many ways compensate for his deficiencies on the pitch.
The simple truth is, Arsenal have been crying out for good centre-backs for years. However, fans are unlikely to see marquee signings such as RB Liepzig’s Dayot Upamecano or Villareal’s Pau Torres at Arsenal this summer based on the statements from sources close to the club, who suggest that the club will be looking at free transfers, loan deals and cheap options. Given the current global pandemic, the need for Arsenal, without Champions League money, to outsmart the market has never been greater.
Looking at the current squad, Arsenal have a lot of distinctly average centre-backs. Calum Chambers remains injured after tearing his ACL against Chelsea. whilst Rob Holding has looked shaky in his returns to the first team. This leaves three regulars (Mustafi, Sokratis and Luiz), along with current loanee Pablo Mari and the highly-rated incoming William Saliba.
Seven defenders competing for two spots (Arteta seems to favour a formation with four defenders) is far too many, and even if Arsenal declined to make Mari’s move permanent, six is probably one too many. However, if Mari’s deal is made permanent for a reported £10 million, Arsenal will be looking for both he and William Saliba to hit the ground running, as well as Chambers and Holding to return well from injury. It all seems too risky.
Add to this the difficulty of bringing in a replacement in an unstable market if Luiz were to leave, and it all points to reasons other than football prompting talk of Luiz’s exit.
It may all come down to David Luiz’s wages. The Brazilian is on £125,000 per week and Arteta and Arsenal may see this as the easiest way to raise money in a market that will likely have deflated value and little interest in Arsenal’s other assets at centre back.
The lack of potential buyers for either Mustafi or Sokratis may well be a key reason for Luiz looking to leave, as Arsenal do require real strengthening in other areas and are already committing significant wages to Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe. The first two will be difficult to shift, the latter two the club will surely want to keep hold of. Luiz leaving may well be a necessary evil in order to strengthen elsewhere.
As an experienced back-up defender with the potential to step in capably when required, Luiz would be fantastic to keep at the club. As a winner and as a mentor for young players, he would also be fantastic to have around the training ground. However, in a world where money will be tight and Arsenal will need to penny-pinch, if it means that Arsenal can strengthen in other areas with the £6 million saved on Luiz’s wages, then it is a sacrifice that most fans, myself included, would be willing to make.
*All statistics taken from WhoScored.com.