For Chelsea, there was no shortage of positives in their crushing 6-0 defeat of Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on the weekend. The complete compilation of Arsene Wenger’s side occurred against the backdrop of a great goal from Samuel Eto’o, an exciting performance from Fernando Torres, and continued defensive solidity from John Terry and Gary Cahill. After Mourinho has praised his performance, we can safely add David Luiz to the list of Chelsea players who were important contributors to the Gunners demise.
Playing alongside hot prospect Nemanja Matic, Luiz had a great game in the holding midfield role in Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1. This isn’t the first time that Luiz has been deployed in this more advanced position. Previous Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez highlighted Luiz’s suitability for midfield as far back as 2012. However, with Chelsea’s defensive system operating seamlessly in his absence, it may be that his vast mop of hair and creative flair is set to become a more permanent sight in the centre of the park.
One often hears great managers saying that they see a player first, and a position second. By this mode of reasoning, it is easy to see why Luiz ought to be preferred in the middle of the park. A holding player in a 3 man midfield, must be confident on the ball, strong in the tackle, be capable of a wide range of passing, and be able to cover for out of position defenders. Luiz possesses many of these capabilities, and his tendency to carry the ball through midfield and risk turning over possession is less of a liability when he is in front of the back four, as opposed to being one of them. It’s still worth pointing out that bad decision making (something that Luiz has been criticised for in the past) is still a problem, regardless of one’s position, and a careless square ball from midfield can still expose one’s defecse.
The arguments in favour of his relocation are emphasised by Mourinho’s options to partner Luiz in the middle of the park. When paired with 25 year old Matic or the cool headed veteran Frank Lampard, there are the makings of a duo with a balance between risk-taking and control, which will allow Luiz to be more expressive in his play, without endangering the ever important structure of a Mourinho side.