What Makes David Luiz so Important to Arsenal?
By James Whiffing
Since joining the Arsenal from rivals Chelsea for a fee of £8 million in August 2019, it is fair to say that David Luiz has divided opinion amongst the fanbase.
After his turbulent debut season, which saw plenty of red cards and errors leading to goals, the 33-year-old has emerged as one of Arsenal’s leaders in the dressing room, using his vast experience to help guide Mikel Arteta’s side to famous FA Cup and Community Shield victories along with wins in big games (against Sp*rs most recently). It’d be accurate to say that the £8 million fee paid for Luiz has turned out to be a bargain.
Luiz has been solid at the back for the Gunners this season, striking up a formidable partnership with fellow Brazilian Gabriel Magalhaes of late. The former Chelsea man reads the game expertly well, making 18 interceptions and 5 blocks as well as 58 clearances in all competitions.
He also boasts an impressive 82% tackle success rate, which proves that he is not easy to dribble round and he is able to win the ball back efficiently in order to create a potential counter-attacking opportunity for his side. This trait is very important in a Mikel Arteta team since his system is mainly based around keeping possession in order to have a firm control over the game; having players who can win back the ball well is crucial.
Additionally, the Brazilian has also demonstrated his aerial prowess via his 71% aerial duel success rate, with his displays against Manchester City and Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals and final respectively being prime examples of how the veteran can be dominant in the air. More examples of his aerial threat can be seen via the two goals he has scored this season.
Aside from defending, David Luiz has also proved that he is an excellent passer of the ball. This season, he has averaged a pass accuracy of 86% across all competitions, with an average of 3.8 progressive passes per90. This is important in Arteta's system as it is not only important for defenders to keep the ball but also use it effectively.
Luiz’s 86% pass accuracy is evidence that he is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and can be relied on to keep possession. Progressive passing is also a valuable aspect of the Brazilian’s game and can be key to unleashing the likes of Aubameyang, Saka and Pepe, who thrive on long through balls in behind the defence.
Luiz’s passing is also very helpful for starting attacks. Getting the ball into spaces occupied by the likes of Smith Rowe and Ødegaard is vital to Arsenal’s attacking style since the pair are without a doubt the two most creative players in the side, so they can be counted on to thread through a pass to a teammate provided Luiz can find them in space.
An example of this is when Luiz often finds Smith Rowe on the left flank with a cross-field ball from the right-hand side of the pitch – this usually finds the latter in lots of space where he can link up with the likes of Tierney and Ødegaard to create chances for his teammates.
Off the pitch, many youngsters have expressed how important the 33-year-old is to the team in the dressing room. In an interview with the Express, Bukayo Saka said that David Luiz is “a man with a big heart” and “goes out of his way all the time to advise and help all the young players” before eventually rounding off the interview by saying that “he is a very important member of our squad”.
Outside of directly helping players, the Brazilian has also seemed to have helped to instil a winning mentality amongst the squad throughout his time at the club. Luiz has enjoyed a decorated footballing career, winning a grand total of 22 major trophies throughout his time at Vitoria, Benfica, Chelsea, PSG and Arsenal, so it goes without saying that he knows what it takes to be successful in the sport.
Although the winning mentality isn’t reflected in the Gunners’ league table position, it was apparent in last season’s FA Cup campaign. Who knows, it could yet be seen to be prevalent in Europe with Arsenal’s UEL campaign still going strong.
Overall, David Luiz has been a strong addition to Arsenal both on and on the pitch. Although he has demonstrated in the past that he may have a mistake in him, he has also proved that he can be a solid centre back and a valuable leader both on and off the pitch.
The decision to give Luiz a new contract after the Manchester City game was heavily criticised by many Arsenal fans, but in the end, it has proven to be a good piece of business for Mikel Arteta.