David Luiz or ‘sideshow bob’ as he is affectionately known by Chelsea fans for his locks and volatile personality is currently in the heart of the defense for both club and country, but who is this player?
Big hair in football comes with big personalities, just look at players like, Valderrama, Edgar Davids and Chelsea’s own Ruud Gullit. It is clear through reports at the club that Luiz is no different. In today’s world of modern football, clubs are run by rich oligarchs, sheiks and politicians. Each result brings unprecedented pressure for the players which in turn could cost millions of dollars for a team. Luiz’s character of being a joker and a prankster is a breath of fresh air to a locker room full of angst and seriousness.
There are two faces to David Luiz. It’s quite evident through footage that when he steps on the field he is a different person, his character is different and approaches the field with a fierce attitude. With all the hype in the lead up of his transfer from Benfica in January 2011 for GBP25 million, Chelsea fans were expecting a defensive stalwart for the next decade, the next John Terry. His transfer on deadline day was shadowed by the GBP50 million signing of Fernando Torres. This eased the pressure from him. It resulted in him having a great start to life in West London. He scored goals, communicated quite well for someone who spoke no English and kept Wayne Rooney at bay on more than one occasion.
Mistakes in football are variable, often the best players of all time are deemed the ‘safest’. They always seem to be making the right decisions and thus making them look brilliant because of the little mistakes they commit. Center half is a position in which you could play amazingly well for 90 minutes but one mistake can ruin the whole game. Being the volatile player that he is and the nature of his football knowledge Luiz, time and time again has fallen for this trap. Often making one or two mistakes that lead to chances for the opposition which then lead to goals.
It is commonly known that Brazilians play attack minded football. All good Brazilian defenders are known more for their attacking prowess rather than their defensive qualities, just think of players like Maicon, Roberto Carlos, Cafu and Lucio, all great on the ball and have attack in their mind, these players will get forward every chance they get and will not hesitate. Football in the big leagues in Europe require their defenders to defend, unfortunately Luiz falls in this trap, his “Brazilianity” as I like to call it takes over and he loves to move forward. Undoubtedly he’s defensive qualities are great, he’s a good tackler, good in the air, strong and has decent speed for a center half, he has all the physical qualities to be the best center half in the world. Unfortunately he is missing the crucial qualities that all great defenders have, composure and decision making.
Defenders like, Carvalho, Cannavaro and Puyol were not physically as gifted as Luiz but it’s their composure and decision making in crucial parts of the game that sets them apart with any other center half in the world. You might see them venture to the other side of the field to take a shot at goal 4 or 5 times a season but Luiz seems to do it at least 4 or 5 times a half. Yet the four coaches that he has worked under at Stamford Bridge has entrusted him with being their premier choice center half, why you may ask? Three reasons, we listed his physical prowess, the directions of John Terry while he’s on the field and perhaps having the owner Roman Abramovich as his ally.
It is clear that when John Terry is next to Luiz he plays much more reserved and sits rightly in his position at the back. His captain makes it his obligation to make sure that he stays in his place and does not venture out to unknown turf like he does when he partners up with Ivanovic or Cahill. How long can this relationship be sustained, can Chelsea really afford to have a defender that does not listen? Most say he’s still maturing and learning the game, but at Chelsea these lapses of concentration are costing them points and this is not the best place to learn, at Chelsea you need to be the finished product.
Though Luiz has put in some fine performances for the blues, most notably on the club’s biggest night, the Champions League final. He was brave, strong against the set piece, took a penalty and showed drive playing through injury. But most importantly he played safe and composed in the 120 minutes of football. He knew the importance of the game and even without John Terry he showed a maturity level that all great defenders show. It is a common trend that he’s finest games have been the games in which he has played safe, perhaps this is the key?
The insertion of Benitez has seen David Luiz play in defensive midfield. This move has exposed his attacking skills. Again, in a place in which you are seen as a “shield” for the back four, positioning is the key. Only a handful of players have excelled in this position. The constant balancing act of when to move forward and when to sit back is something that Luiz needs to learn which will take years. But this time there is no one at the club to teach him.
He seems to be a player that offers so much but contributes too little. A player that can slip in any position from center half to centre forward for one or two games and do a brilliant job but will not have a definite position. All clubs need a man in the squad to plug the holes when needed, can Luiz be this man for Chelsea? Or more importantly does he want to be this man for
Chelsea? Some say he’s a great defender, some say he would make a great midfielder no one knows, but like the enigma it will eventually be solved. Eventually the enigma that is David Luiz will be answered it will just take time, experience and most importantly patience.