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The Strange Case Of David Luiz – Captaincy Material, Or An Accident Waiting To Happen?
Chelsea are a great team in the making, of this there can be no doubt. With concerns over Roman Abramovich’s longevity at the west London club further dispelled with every passing transfer window, what we now see is a team full of serious potential. In their merciless triumvirate of Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata, Chelsea have the attacking elements to create serious devastation for seasons to come.
It has been said by a countless number that all Chelsea are missing is a clinical finisher to replace the floundering Fernando Torres, and perhaps a little further depth in the middle. While there can be no real doubt as to Torres’ plight since his arrival over two years ago, there is a certain Brazilian ‘defender’ who has found a new lease of life in the centre of the Blues’ midfield.
The leash has been taken off the flowing haired demon, David Luiz, and he is relishing the role of destroyer. Charging around the pitch like a man possessed, striking fear into opponent’s hearts with his raw aggression, Luiz is a real fans’ favourite for the Chelsea faithful. Loyal and utterly tireless, he has a thirst for battle not unlike a fearless Trojan warrior.
The idea of David Luiz taking the Chelsea armband after the departure of the last remnants of the ‘old guard’ is one that has slowly gathered pace over the past few months. With John Terry currently challenging for a place at the back, instead of enjoying his usual permanency there, the club must be starting to tentatively look for a long-term replacement for the veteran defender.
Off the pitch, Luiz is known as the club jester; always posing for the cameras, playing pranks on his teammates, and is rarely seen without his trademark mischievous grin. But when David Luiz steps onto the pitch, soaking up the roars of the crowd, he transforms from the mild-mannered miscreant, into a full-blown force of nature. He puts this down to his understanding of the line between work and play,
“I know what is important. When I go to the pitch I cannot laugh, I respect the other players. I try my best and put my passion inside the game,” Luiz told the Evening Standard,
“I like to have fun but there are moments you need to show yourself and that for me is on the pitch.”
There are strong cases for and against the instalment of the wild Brazilian as captain of the European Champions, with both arguments hinging mainly on his mental state.
On the one side, his friendly demeanour is certainly a positive, both in his interaction with his team-mates, and as a general ideal for the football club. But on the other hand, it is a dangerous change in his personality that has seen him court controversy in the past.
There have been a few examples of Luiz’s ugly side in the last two seasons, namely his challenge on Stoke’s Jon Walters when the sides met in September, and more recently, his sinister poleaxing of Brentford’s young midfielder, Jack Reeves. In both cases, Luiz avoided punishment, and after further viewing, they were both reckless, almost mad ‘challenges’ by the Brazilian.
Luiz has maintained his innocence, admitting he is often hard in the challenge, but they are never with malice. As revealed by Uwe Rosler, the Brentford manager, Luiz talked to Reeves after the game last week, gave him his shirt, and apologised for hurting him. A ‘fantastic gesture’, said Rosler, but there are only so many times the Brazilian can apologise to injured opponents before he earns himself a damaging reputation as a dangerous player.
Some bad challenges are made with the good of the team in mind, so as to stop a counter attack and accept a booking; some are born out of pure frustration. What makes Luiz’s challenges all the more disturbing is their timing in matches. In the match against Stoke, Chelsea were seeing out the game at 1-0, and it was in the 92nd minute when Luiz threw himself at the Stoke striker. Against Brentford, the Blues were comfortably 4-0 up, and in no danger of losing the tie when Luiz’s abruptly introduced his shoulder to Reeves’ jaw.
It is these types of challenges, both unnecessary and downright dangerous, which will hinder Luiz’s progression as a player and as a leader on the pitch for Chelsea. His almost ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ attitude cannot be a comfort to the players around him, especially when they are looking for a level head to keep them calm when in a winning position.
Despite this, Luiz has always seen himself as a natural leader throughout his career. He is well aware of the responsibilities that come with playing for big teams, and he admits that he strives to be more than just a member of the team, and wants to be seen as a leader on and off the pitch,
“This is my personality. Other players can be leaders on the pitch but not all players can understand another player, so I try to,” Luiz told the Evening Standard,
“You need to understand the heart of another player. I try to read other people, to figure out how I can joke with this guy, how I can help him or touch his heart.
“It makes me a leader but I have always been like this. I was captain of Benfica at 21 and they are a big club. I don’t do things just to look a good guy; I do it because I feel it. I am not fake. It’s coming from inside me.”
It is clear that Luiz sees himself as a leader for Chelsea, and he would surely be one of the first to throw his hat into the ring for the position of skipper when the time comes. I believe he has every right to, considering his love for the club, players and the fans; his undying spirit in the face of all adversity; and his enduring passion for the game.
But it is also clear that he needs to find a balance between the two sides of his personality on the pitch. He poses an underlying danger both to the physical well-being of his opponents, and to his teammates who would be loath to play a match with ten men.
The man charged with taking the Blues forward next season may well look closely at the clear potential of David Luiz as the club moves into a new era; but he would be wise to look even closer at the Brazilian’s obvious flaw.
What do Chelsea fans think? Is Luiz Captain material? Get involved in the comments section below.