David Luiz was playing well at Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime before, mid-way through the second half, his central-defensive partner John Terry had to be alert to block Shola Ameobi’s cross as the Brazilian lapsed to allow the striker through.
It was the eccentric defender in a nutshell, turning in a steady performance until an error blemishes his game, mistakes arising not from his limitations but from dips in concentration that cause the utmost frustration.
It was the frustration that proved too much for Jose Mourinho after the 4-1 win over Cardiff, omitting Luiz for the games with Schalke and Manchester City after his moment of altruism in gifting Jordan Mutch the game’s opening goal. He returned for the League Cup victory over Arsenal on Tuesday, impressing alongside Gary Cahill, before John Terry was brought back to the fold to pair Luiz for the trip to the north east. The result? A 2-0 defeat and a scathing Mourinho.
“I feel I made 11 mistakes. Of course I’m exaggerating, we had some guys with normal good performances but the overall feeling is I made 11 bad choices. It was a really bad performance from us. In the first 45 minutes we played as if it was a friendly” he said.
It was hard to criticise Luiz’s role in both of Saturday’s goals, but it would have concerned Mourinho the ease with which he abandons his position and just how invitingly Newcastle’s attack of Yoan Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko and Loic Remy were allowed to swarm into areas of gaping space in the second half.
Luiz, booked late on for a cynical foul on Remy as the Frenchman’s movement was too clever to handle, was punished for his positional indiscipline which struggled to compensate for the ageing legs of Terry beside him.
Gary Cahill would have been an interesting observant on the substitutes bench, looking on after he may have been attributed responsibility for letting Sergio Aguero go free to equalise for Manchester City last Sunday.
The partnership of Terry and Cahill has been Mourinho’s preferred partnership, using the English duo for the matches with both Manchester clubs, but Luiz has registered 11 appearances so far, starting all but 1 of them as Mourinho looks to make use of his 3 international centre-backs as he hunts silverware on four fronts.
The Chelsea boss has claimed that Luiz and Terry are his first choice pairing at the back, though it is mistakes like the one at Cardiff that are undermining the Brazilian’s bid for a consistent first-team berth.
“Sometimes he makes a little mistake and he has to work on that stability because it is important for him and it is important for the team” said Mourinho, “The team needs him and, yes, he has what it takes to be a really top, top defender in the world. Now he has to reach that stability and maturity”.
Chelsea spent 25 million Euros on Luiz in January 2011 and, despite the numerous struggles he has had to endure in adapting to the Premier League, they have never lost sight on what persuaded them to lavish such a fee on the defender.
A powerful centre-back who combines athleticism with a certain elegance and composure on the ball to make him so effective at carrying the ball out from the back, it is Luiz, established as a first-choice defender for his country, who averages 58.4 passes per game, the most out of the whole Chelsea squad so far this season.
He can also defend effectively, as his memorable rock-solid showing in the Champions League final of 2012 indicated, using his impressive build and robust upper-body strength to edge out attackers in one-on-one situations. Electric pace is also a significant attribute, though the detractors will argue that those traits are over-used as Luiz’s lack of concentration can afford his attacker a yard in advance.
It is something that has seen previous Chelsea managers trial with the versatile Brazilian in the slightly advanced position of central-midfield with the logic being that his mistakes would not be as costly if he was given the cushion of protection behind him.
Yet Mourinho has eyes on his Brazilian being solely a defender, “A team and a defensive player need stability. With the talent Luiz has I hope he can reach that” he said though the cutting of his diamond continues.
As capable of the ridiculous as much he is the brilliant, Luiz is still very much an exciting work in progress.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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