David Luiz – Bringing the carnival atmosphere to the Emirates.
If you had asked any Arsenal fan in the aftermath of the Baku disaster who their ideal centre-back signing would be, very few would have said the man lining up against us that night in David Luiz.
Fast forward to the 8th of August & Arsenal announced the 32-year-old Brazilian as their final bit of business this window. The reaction was rather mixed. Some excited at the prospect of a technically gifted centre back, a title now vacant after Laurent Koscielny’s acrimonious departure. Others felt that he was the exact kind of player this Arsenal side didn’t need – talented, but ultimately a ticking time bomb ready to explode at the next calamitous error.
Someone who ultimately leaves hearts in mouths with his kamikaze-style defending, however, using his full debut at the Emirates versus Burnley as a reference, the days of Luiz’s reckless and risky defending are perhaps behind him.
Dissecting the debut
Most fans, players and coaching staff knew what to expect when Sean Dyche’s men rolled into town, his Burnley side offered very little more than pumping every single pass into the 18-yard box aerially. A tactic Luiz was more than capable of dealing with, notching seven headed clearances to his name and winning 100% of his aerial duels over the course of the 90 minutes.
One thing Emery’s men were consistent on throughout that game was their willingness to play through Burnley, starting from the back. A tactic that perhaps fans of Guardiola managed teams can watch rather comfortably, those at The Emirates still not entirely relaxed at the concept of Leno, Sokratis & co intricately weaving their way out of their own penalty area.
However, it is a process that takes time and one that fans must stick with. They may find it easier to watch when Arsenal’s latest Brazilian is in the side. Picture this, as Arsenal lead the tie 2-1 with around ten minutes to go, David Luiz receives the ball off of Nacho Monreal on the corner of his own six-yard box, with five of the opposition camped around the box. Luiz got his head up and looked like the calmest man in the ground as he beat the Burnley press with a perfect 25-yard pass over the top into Dani Ceballos.
That pass was his third accurate long ball of the game. His precision accuracy over long distance could be yet another new weapon in the armoury, with the pace of our new look front three our new number 23 could find himself one of Arsenal’s lead chance creators.
The Anfield Debacle
However, if Burnley at home highlighted all the good that the more mature, experienced David Luiz brings, our trip to Anfield was one for the Brazilian’s sceptics. Perhaps it was one for both sides of the Luiz coin. For 45 minutes, he seemed to have continued in the same vein as his positive home debut. Yet the very reasons that Chelsea seemed to put up little resistance over Luiz’s wishes to depart West-London came to the forefront in the second half.
1-0 down at the interval, two moments of Luiz madness killed the tie as a contest. A shirt-pull so obvious on Salah it could have been spotted the other side of Stanley Park left Anthony Taylor with little choice but to award the spot-kick – duly converted by Liverpool’s star man. Less than 10 minutes later and Emery’s half-time blueprints had been foiled, with Luiz the culprit again. The centre-back overcommitting against Salah, leaving Leno with the gruelling task of facing the Egyptian 1v1 – there was only one winner.
Luiz the leader
The signing of David Luiz goes beyond what he can offer on the pitch, and into the kind of mentality he can instil off it. His list of honours is admirable, ignoring the fact most of them were won on the wrong side of London. Winning one Premier League, two FA cups, two Europa League titles and a Champions League trophy to match, the Brazilian is no stranger to silverware. Yet he appears as hungry as any to lift some with his new side.
Already forming quite the bromance with his hair twin Matteo Guendouzi – Luiz appears to be a relaxed yet experienced head many of the young players could turn to, a vital asset to this side when you think of the number of youngsters in and around the team. With Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and fellow Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli all seemingly in the first-team picture, Arsenal’s latest defensive recruit could prove quite the steal for £8 million pounds.
Roll on Sunday
Mentality, attitude, mindset. Words that were consistently used when speculating the reasons why Arsenal opted for the Brazilian. Luiz needs to prove that now more than ever as we approach the first North London Derby of the season. He took to Instagram to issue a battle cry, stating how he ‘will never give up!!”. With 35 league games left, I’m sure all Gooners are breathing a sigh of relief our new recruit hasn’t thrown in the towel just yet.
His matchup against a certain Harry Kane on Sunday is an interesting one. A more physical contest than the one Luiz was poised with at Anfield, it may just suit him- alongside Sokratis, to take a more hands-on approach. (within reason, NO shirt pulling) Luiz has already spoken on his excitement ahead of his first NLD experience. He’ll need to channel that excitement and ensure it doesn’t overflow into something more detrimental for his side. The last thing we need is a repeat of Luiz’s defensive efforts for Chelsea on Son at Wembley last year.
With two of the most experienced NLD attendee’s departing for Turin and Bordeaux, Unai Emery’s men need the kind of experience Luiz has in games of this magnitude. Come full time on Sunday, David Luiz could have potentially come a long way in terms of endearing himself to the home faithful already.