David Lui has been a mixed bag for Arsenal this year, but there is some logic behind extending his contract. So let’s explore that logic now.
It’d be fair to say that David Luiz‘s return to Premier League action following Project Restart has been out of the ordinary. However, with regard to Luiz, what truly is ordinary? Well, one might suggest that his performance against Manchester was ordinary for David Luiz. Not one, but two errors from the Brazilian led to Manchester City goals and he picked up his fourth Premier League red card of the season. The most dismissals received by a single player in the division this campaign. So, why have Arsenal chosen to extend his contract?
Well, a good place to start concerning the reasoning behind the extension would be why the executive team decided to bring in Luiz in the first place. We were in desperate need of a centre-back, our pursuit of RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano had failed and Laurent Koscielny had left the club in a shocking fashion. So, Raul Sanllehi used his strong companionship with Kia Joorabchian to bring in the super agent’s most suitable client for the job in hand, David Luiz.
The positives within Luiz’s game represented everything Unai Emery wanted from a centre-back. The man who made his name in Portugal within Benfica boasts a brilliant range of passing, excellent aerial ability and certain leadership attributes which our squad was dearly lacking.
However, the negatives within the former Chelsea defender’s game were everything Emery did not desire. The 33-year-old is incredibly mistake-prone, he tends to lose concentration fairly easily and he possesses a noticeable lack of pace. Striking similarities to Shkodran Mustafi who had just endured his worst season in an Arsenal shirt prior to the arrival of Luiz. On the day of his arrival, a potential partnership of Luiz and Mustafi scared Arsenal fans to death.
The uproar which arrived on Wednesday following the announcement of Luiz’ contract extension was understandable. The veteran’s weaknesses have been clear to see this season. Aside from the costly errors and innocuous penalty concessions, Luiz has won just 43.5% of his tackles, he regularly allows players to run at him which piles pressure on to his colleagues and he’s been dispossessed on a grand total of 10 occasions in defensive areas. Worrying. Unfortunately, this is just the sort of player David Luiz. When a manager chooses to start him in their defence, they must be prepared to accept that a mistake could be on its way. Trying to change this would be like trying to teach an old dog new tricks. It just wouldn’t work.
However, a key reason behind the decision to keep him on must’ve been due to the numerous positive displays Luiz has delivered in an Arsenal shirt. His passing under Mikel Arteta thus far has become a really important part of our game. Our number 23’s xGBuildup/90 of 0.31 this year is really impressive for a centre-back and shows just how involved in our build-up play the Brazilian has been. His assist against Everton in February epitomised his aptitude to Mikel Arteta’s passing system. When he’s at his best, there are few better ball-playing centre-halves in the league.
His positive performances under Mikel Arteta led to the enigmatic defender being rewarded through the captaincy against Portsmouth in the FA Cup. Nobody really turned their noses up at this. Luiz had been wearing an invisible armband for weeks prior to the tie and that night he played how an Arsenal captain should. He got on with his game and he led the youngsters around him commendably whilst also chaperoning the debuting Pablo Mari next to him. Performances like that make the disaster against Man City all the more infuriating. It really seemed as if he was beginning to eradicate the stupid mistakes from his game in the period between Mikel Arteta’s arrival and lockdown.
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And this is why Arsenal would’ve chosen to keep him on board for another year. Mikel Arteta is a rational man. He won’t let one performance change his opinion on a player. He knows Luiz’s performance against City was somewhat atypical and it is almost a given that Arteta will be demanding Luiz to return to his best as soon as possible.
On top of this, the veteran has reportedly been a great influence in the dressing room. To be fair, this was expected when he joined the club, after all, he is one of the most experienced and decorated players in the squad. It’s undoubted that youngsters such as Gabriel Martinelli look up to him. Meanwhile, his London pad has become a hotspot for the city-based Arsenal players, and those within the club are believed to really like the former PSG centre-back. These factors make the reports that Luiz has been offered a player/coach role within the extension agreement all the more unsurprising.
Given the fact that the contract agreement is said to have been reached on reduced terms alongside a clause which has made Luiz our 5th choice centre-back indicates Arsenal have got a really good deal here. We’ve managed to keep hold of a player who has had a positive impact on the dressing room, he’s performed really well on a number of occasions this year and the playing time agreement means there is a reduced chance of seeing him make mistakes on a regular basis. The extension also strong insinuates at least one of either Sokratis or Mustafi will be leaving the club this summer.
I for one am happy to see Luiz sign on for another year. He’s a seasoned professional and he’ll be a great mentor for the incoming William Saliba. Let’s all just keep our fingers crossed that the David Luiz we saw against Manchester City won’t be the same one we see return to action against Wolves on Sunday…