Why David Luiz transfer makes sense for Chelsea
By Peter Smith
Last Updated: 01/09/16 1:25pm
The adventurous defender may seem an odd fit for Antonio Conte's highly-structured approach but David Luiz's return to Chelsea makes sense for player and club, writes Peter Smith…
Earlier this month Gary Cahill was asked about Antonio Conte's methods. "He's added organisation and a lot of discipline," said the defender. "Players know exactly what their role should be at each individual time they're on the pitch."
It's an approach the Italian manager has become known for; Conte maps out each player's duties in detailed and intense tactics-based training sessions.
So the £30m purchase of free-wheeling Brazil centre-back David Luiz seems an odd one. But despite his reputation for reckless and erratic decision-making, the 29-year-old could be an ideal solution to Chelsea's problems. Here's why...
Lack of centre-back options
Chelsea boss Conte complained last week about a lack of defensive options and, with only John Terry and Cahill currently available as recognised centre-backs with significant Premier League experience, there was a real chance of the Italian facing a crisis in his backline should either of the pair suffer injury or suspension.
Kurt Zouma remains sidelined with his long-term knee injury, while Matt Miazga seems a long way from the first-team. Full-backs Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic could fill-in but the situation was far from ideal.
Chelsea have previously made moves for AC Milan's Alessio Romagnoli and Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly this summer and the west London side were also linked with Juventus duo Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini. However, by eventually landing Luiz on Deadline Day they have bolstered a key area of their squad.
Luiz brings quality
With his frizzy hair, adventurous style and reputation for making mistakes, Luiz is an easy target for the critics - but beyond the caricature there is a first-class defender. "Yes he makes bad decisions sometimes and is a bit rash at times, but when he's on his game, he's fantastic," Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports News HQ.
Yes David Luiz makes bad decisions sometimes and is a bit rash at times, but when he's on his game, he's fantastic.
Chelsea fans will clearly remember his courageous performance in the 2012 Champions League final, when he played through the pain of a hamstring injury to help the team become champions of Europe and his stats from the 2015/16 edition of that competition highlight his ability.
The Brazilian didn't make a single error leading to an opposition shot or goal during Paris St-Germain's run past Chelsea to the quarter-finals. He also recorded a better passing accuracy, tackle success rate and won more duels per 90 minutes than any Chelsea centre-back.
David Luiz v Chelsea CBs in 2015/16 CL
|Passing accuracy %||Tackle success %||Duels won per 90mins|
Three at the back
Luiz's arrival also offers Conte the opportunity to switch to the 3-5-2 formation he preferred at Juventus and with the Italian national team. Like Terry and Cahill, Luiz would be unfamiliar with the system initially but it's a role Sky Sports pundit Danny Higginbotham suspects would suit the former PSG man.
"People say Luiz can be a little bit of a liability defensive wise, but I think when you look at Conte, the success he had with Italy and at Juventus was playing a back three," Higginbotham said.
"David Luiz is a defender who can take the ball out, and I think if you look at Chelsea's other signing [on Deadline Day], Marcos Alonso, who's a left-back, and Cesar Azpilicueta could go over to the right, so you've got two wing-backs as well.
"For me it's a solution for Conte to now go and play a back three."
After Chelsea's abject Premier League title defence last season the addition of a man who has lifted the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup with the club injects a much-needed winning mentality.
In his two seasons with PSG, Luiz has helped the capital club clean up in France, winning back-to-back domestic trebles, while he's been named in the Ligue 1 team of the year in both the 2014/15 and 2015/16 campaigns.
Luiz won't have returned to the Premier League to settle for a top four finish. He'll be targeting more silverware - and that's just the kind of player Conte will relish having at his disposal.
He's a Chelsea icon
Sky sources understand PSG had no intention of selling Luiz when Chelsea first came calling earlier this week. However, Luiz sought out both the club's president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and sporting director Leonardo to convince them to let him go.
The affection is mutual. This is a player hugely popular with the Blues' fanbase, owner Roman Abramovich - Luiz has talked about his post-Champions League win celebrations with the Russian - and Chelsea players.
He may have celebrated scoring against Chelsea in the 2014/15 Champions League last-16 second leg at Stamford Bridge - a move he later apologised for - but the Brazilian has a special connection with the club. It will be fascinating to see how the next chapter unfolds...