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Chelsea’s indecipherable man-child is incredibly good and an error-prone mess

David Luiz is an affable, entertaining character who has been around for over a decade — so why hasn't he figured himself out?

For over ten years I’ve been watching David Luiz play football with the same expression on my face.

Mouth ajar, head cocked to one side, a suspicious squint.

It’s the same expression when you stream a foreign film and the subtitles don’t work; when you have absolutely no idea what’s going on.


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Who are you really?

Reuters
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Who are you really?

More money has been spent on Luiz than any other defender in history.

He’s made significant contributions to title wins in three different countries, earned 56 caps for Brazil, lifted the Champions League trophy.

But what exactly is his shtick?

And more importantly, does anyone know if he’s any good?

A diligent Chelsea fan has reviewed every goal the Blues have conceded this season and reckons Luiz is at fault for 64% of them.

Spurs benefited from Luiz’s poor judgement

Getty - Contributor
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Spurs benefited from Luiz’s poor judgement

One the other hand, prior to his disasterclass against Spurs, many would have said the Brazilian centre-back has enjoyed a decent comeback season after a spell in the wilderness under Antonio Conte.

This enigmatic contradiction has been a feature of Luiz’s entire career.

He is Schrodinger’s footballer; simultaneously brilliant and utterly useless.

With N’Golo Kante no longer occupying the deepest midfield role, and Cesar Azpilicueta resuming right-back duties, Chelsea’s defence has looked vulnerable at times.

Eden Hazard’s golden form allowed Maurizio Sarri to start his Premier League tenure with 12 unbeaten games.

However, after the defeat to Spurs, they find themselves seven points off the pace having conceded over twice as many goals as leaders Man City and second-placed Liverpool.

A decade of confusion

Getty - Contributor
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A decade of confusion

It is unfair to say that Luiz is solely responsible for Chelsea’s defensive frailties.

However, if the 64% statistic is to be believed, you have to wonder whether Sarri would have been better off with Andreas Christensen from the get-go.

Luiz’s unique brand of slapstick buffoonery is not without its merits.

South American defenders in general tend to be more physical and comfortable in possession.

The Brazilian was somewhat ahead of his time in regard to the latter attribute.

I haven’t even mentioned Sideshow Bob yet…

Action Images - Reuters
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I haven’t even mentioned Sideshow Bob yet…

Nowadays an impeccable touch and a wide range of passing are minimum requirements for top-level centre-backs.

Luiz rose to prominence with Benfica just as much for his contributions in possession as his defending.

The side-step free-kicks, intrepid adventures, and Puskas Award hopefuls make up Luiz’s USP.

And all that would be great… if he didn’t still defend like a teenager.

A night to forget

AFP - Getty
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A night to forget

The infancy of Luiz’s Chelsea career was blighted by his impulsive nature.

His insatiable desire to step in front of his man in search of an interception resulted in him being rolled by savvy strikers; a goal being the common outcome.

While he has curbed this habit as his career has developed, the 31-year-old is still prone to inexcusable errors.

It sounds daft after 12 years as a centre-back, but I still think Luiz would have been better served as a defensive midfielder.

He has fulfilled such a role with limited success at various times.

There have been good days, many of them

PA:Press Association
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There have been good days, many of them

I’m a hesitant to be overly critical of Luiz.

I feel confident in my assessment that he won’t be considered in the top bracket of defenders of his generation.

Equally, I believe he was worthy of his place in PFA Team of the Year 2016/17 — a campaign in which he demonstrated he was capable of consistency.

If he were simply a physical centre-back who let himself down with costly errors then I could get my head around him — I’d stick him in the Dejan Lovren pigeon hole.

But he’s so much more than that, or possibly less?

To be honest, I’ve no idea.


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