Why Arsenal’s season could hinge on David Luiz
In one of the strangest transfer moves this summer, Arsenal captured David Luiz in a deal which could prove to be inspired or senseless.
On the face of it, £8million for a Brazilian international defender, who has won the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, Ligue 1, and Confederations Cup seems like an absolute bargain – but we all know that Luiz is no ordinary footballer.
The permed 32-year-old, who only penned a new deal with Chelsea in May, is one of those perennially unpredictable players – a Rolls Royce or Robin Reliant as the cliched classic car metaphor goes.
Often he can amble around at the back and make everything look effortless, from his reading of the game to the spraying of 50-yard balls to release the speedsters out wide – Luiz had the sixth highest number of touches of any Premier League player last season, summing up how comfortable he feels on the ball.
However, particularly when playing as a member of a back four, Luiz’s lack of concentration and game management skills have often cost his teams, and he has been culpable for a number of high-profile errors. In short, he has never really possessed a calm head, despite being in the advancing years of his career.
So when Arsenal, who have needed that calm head in defence since the days of Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure, decided to bring Luiz into the side, no head in the football world was left unscratched.
Despite the fact Arsenal appear to have landed Luiz on the cheap, it is still a move that does not make sense to too many and comes with massive risks.
However, Unai Emery needs to take risks. He finished his first season out of the Champions League and, while that was no disaster, he needs to get Arsenal back into the top four at least this time around to prove he is a worthy long-term replacement for Arsene Wenger.
Luiz’s best season at Chelsea came in the 2016-17 campaign, when he was part of an Antonio Conte back three which allowed him to be more expressive on the ball and leave the dirty work to colleagues.
Perhaps Emery might think about settling on a back three this term? He often changed from a four to a three last season as he searched for a resolution to Arsenal’s historic defensive woes.
If Luiz can keep his head right, and Emery finds the right formation to play him in, then he will fit like a glove and be a fantastic replacement for Laurent Koscielny.
However, so much of the move is shrouded in risk – if Luiz does not fit into Emery’s plans, causes training ground disruption, which has happened in the past, and makes mistakes on the pitch, then it could define Arsenal’s season.
Managers can live and die by their signings, and this one encapsulates that theory, as Luiz seeks to debut for his new club at home to Burnley on Saturday.