Should David Luiz get a New Arsenal Contract?
By Allan Riley
Every season, there is always one player with whom contract speculation is rife. With the Folarin Balogun saga now seemingly out of the way, attention has shifted over to David Luiz.
The Brazillian was drafted in for £8 million on the deadline day of 2019 from Chelsea. His first season had its ups and downs; assured defensive displays in Arsenal’s FA Cup run were countered by horror showings against Manchester City and Chelsea in the league. In fact, he broke an unwanted record against the Cityzens, becoming the first player to concede five penalties in a single Premier League season.
As such, the decision to trigger the one-year extension in his contract raised eyebrows, especially following his disasterclass at the Etihad. However, Luiz made doubters eat their words throughout Project Restart. The Brazillian was immense in the semi-final and final of Arsenal’s FA cup run, with his performance in the semi-final in particular capping off a remarkable redemption story.
Fast forward eleven months, and the club are once again at a crossroads in regard to Luiz’s future. The centre-back has been one of Arsenal’s most consistent players throughout this campaign and has partnered well with new boy Gabriel.
That being said, Luiz turns thirty-four later this month, and is recovering from a minor knee surgery. With William Saliba returning from his short-term loan at Nice at the end of this season, Arsenal and Mikel Arteta must decide on the future of Luiz at the club – if he has one at all.
Luiz’s influence extends from on-the-pitch matters, with the Brazillian seemingly one of the leaders within the Arsenal side. The Brazillian is one of the club’s most experienced players, and has won league titles in Portugal, France and England, as well as both of Europe’s intercontinental competitions. He is a winner who has vast experience at the summit of the game, something Arsenal's youthful squad lack.
Moreover, he is a mentor for the younger members of the Arsenal side. For young defenders like Gabriel and Saliba, having someone like the Brazillian at the club offering advice and guidance provides a fantastic learning opportunity. Even Pablo Mari, who is four years older than Gabriel and seven older than Saliba, has spoken about Luiz’s influence at the club, telling The Guardian:
Pablo Mari on Luiz: “He’s helped me loads: anything I needed, he was there. David is so intelligent, great in the dressing room, always joking but the first to pull on his overalls to work.”
It’s obvious that Luiz is a well respected and key figure in the dressing room. He has an impact on younger players and is an excellent mentor, as well as one of the team’s leaders on the pitch.
Looking at Luiz from a statistical point of view, the Brazillian puts up 1.74 tackles and interceptions per 90, puts up 2.42 successful pressures per 90 and has only been dribbled past twice this campaign.
While these are fine defensive numbers, Luiz’s main strengths lie in his passing ability. The centre-back is vital to Arsenal’s build-up play, with 3.95 passes into the final third, 3.45 progressive passes and 4.27 progressive carries per 90.
Ball progression has always been one of Luiz’s main ways of compensating for his shortcomings defensively. Given his age, however, and the fact that he is coming off the back of knee surgery, however minor it may have been, those numbers could decline upon his return.
William Saliba is also set to return to his loan to Nice come the Summer. The Frenchman is regarded as a future defensive star his homeland and is widely tipped to be Gabriel’s long-term partner at the heart of the Arsenal defence. Following the departures of Sokratis and Skhodran Mustafi, Saliba has moved up in the pecking order, but Luiz’s continued presence as a defensive option could potentially be detrimental to the 20-year-old’s development.
That being said, Luiz offers something to the off-field dynamic that not many Arsenal players currently do. He is a leader and a natural winner, but more importantly, is someone who is able to act as a mentor for the young players coming to prominence in the club’s first team.
As such, a one-year extension that involves Luiz becoming a more prominent figure behind the scenes whilst making way for younger centre-backs to get more experience with the Brazillian supporting them would be the ideal outcome of this situation. Whether Luiz would be interested in such an offer is a debate for another time...