David Luiz hasn’t always been taken completely seriously since he joined Chelsea from Benfica in 2011 and this is in no small part down to his wild hair, erratic style of defending and all the ‘geezer’ nonsense but he’s come a long way since Gary Neville famously said that he played as though he was controlled by a ’10-year-old playing on a PlayStation’.
In the early stages of his career at Stamford Bridge he was often praised for his ability with the ball but castigated for his suicidal defending and this led many to question whether or not the centre-back position was really for him. He’d often make a rash mistake, commit himself too early or get caught out too far up the pitch and it often led to us conceding goals, and he received heavy criticism from pundits and fans alike.
At the beginning of the current season he was torn apart by Radamel Falcao and co when Atletico Madrid humiliated Chelsea in the European Super Cup, a game in which an attempted back-heeled clearance summed up Luiz’s efforts on the evening and many were wondering if the Brazilian had learned anything at all during his time in England as the glimpses of maturity towards the end of the previous campaign faded away.
But he’s never been one to give up and being the sort of character he is, he doesn’t seem particularly fazed by criticism and has instead worked on improving his game. During the winter months Rafael Benitez took over at Stamford Bridge in the place of fan favourite Roberto Di Matteo but despite the unpopularity of the Spaniard if his appointment has benefited anyone, it has been Luiz.
The former Inter Milan boss has had heaps of problems as the interim manager of the West London club and has been forced to shuffle the pack a few times, which led to Luiz getting the opportunity to play in midfield and he did ok there in the absence of Oriol Romeu through injury and John Obi Mikel at the African Cup of Nations, but at least we know now that his best place is in the back four.
He’s now considered the number one choice at centre-half for Chelsea ahead of Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and even club captain John Terry. The 25-year-old has shown a greater maturity in his position and although his natural exuberance leads to the occasional error, it is nothing compared to what he was like before.
The thing that has been most impressive about his game is his distribution of the ball at the back as he attempts a fair few difficult passes but averages about 82% in the completion rates and he’s instinctively better at spotting the danger than he is at winning the ball (he fouls a lot) as he makes more interceptions than anyone.
I have never particularly been a fan of Luiz’s style and warned against his complacency before we had signed him but I cannot fault the guy for his effort, his desire to win and eagerness to improve. He’s still got some way to go but I hope he can continue in this vein.