What Is David Luiz’s Legacy? by Dan Smith
In the summer of 2019 even fans who didn’t care about Arsenal were aware the club were in need of a world class centre back.
It says everything about our ambition that at the end of the transfer. window we had somehow made the position weaker, replacing Koscielny with David Luiz.
Such was the disappointment in how our captain left, it overshadowed the fact that yet again the club had taken the cheap option.
In only his third game for us, the Brazilian conceded a penalty at Anfield. He did the same at the Bridge (where he also got sent off) and the Etihad (sent off also), at Selhurst Park and at home and away to Watford.
One player had never given away so many spot kicks in one season in the history of the Prem. He added another pen and red card to his CV this campaign at Molineux. So in two years in North London he got more red cards and conceded more pens then his six years at Chelsea.
For a while that seemed to be his legacy at The Emirates. Some might say it still is.
Others felt sorry for the 34-year-old. It’s not like Unai Emery didn’t know what he was getting. Even in his prime the defender had a reputation for making too many mistakes. Even if playing well he was always capable of a lapse in concentration
Garry Neville famously described watching him as ‘ like playing FIFA’, based on the talent great in possession, a fantastic long range passer and always wanting to join in with attacks. Ironically, it was the art of defending he seemed less keen on.
The turning point in his Arsenal career came in the first fixture back after lockdown. Coming off the bench, Luiz had the worst approx. 20 min cameo possible. His error gifted Sterling a goal then after half time he gave away a penalty before his red card.
This disaster, combined with uncertainty over his future led many pundits to suggest he had played his last game in the red and white shirt.
While discussing ‘Project Restart’ it was unclear where all parties stood in terms of their contracts. Covid had meant the season would be extended past the date deals expired.
Luiz showed great character by immediately fronting the Sky Cameras and taking the blame for the 3-0 defeat confessing ‘I shouldn’t have played’. Although it wasn’t clear if he was referencing not being 100 percent fit or not in the right frame of mind with his future up in the air.
Eventually he agreed to extend his stay on a reduced salary.
Then something strange happened. A month later Luiz was a colossus in the FA Cup Semi Final 3 days after doing the same against the Champions Liverpool. He repeated that level of display in the FA Cup Final against his former employers.
At the Final whistle at Wembley while others celebrated, he calmly walked over and consoled ex-teammates. It was class but also indicative of the person. Luiz never got too low when criticised but equally was not getting carried away when things were going well.
He also spoke well afterwards claiming he wanted to help take ‘this club back where it deserves to be .’
Although he will always be associated more with Chelsea, here was a man talking with the knowledge of football, aware that Arsenal were a big name in the sport and focused on helping us.
Those who followed his career will not be surprised that his 2 best games as a Gooner came in his two most important. You could argue his best for Chelsea was in a Champions League Final.
Despite constant mockery, you don’t win every domestic trophy in three countries and 2 Europa Leagues and a Champions League without being good at your job. David Luiz made a living out of proving people wrong.
That’s his legacy the day he retires. But what’s his legacy at Arsenal?
As recently as January after being named Man of the Match against Man United, he spoke about the need to be ‘humble’. This is someone I want our youngsters to be listening too.
Equally after Emery was sacked, I noticed Luiz played like a man that was angry and embarrassed by our position in the table.
Quite simply, Luiz was one of the few leaders we had in the dressing room and it’s a shame we hadn’t signed him a few years earlier.
Almost to clarify his leadership qualities, it’s believed Arteta was open to keeping him for a third year but wanted his defender to transition into a coaching role. That shows how much our manager values Luiz’s presence that he wanted to find ways to keep him around the place. It’s also an admission that the training pitch will be a weaker place without Luiz around.
Leadership is valuable, it’s not something you can teach.
Luiz’s refusal highlights he still thinks he has a couple of years left at the highest level. It makes zero sense to either party to rush him back to fitness meaning he’s played his final game at Arsenal and maybe English Football period.
Not that he can’t one day return and be part of Arteta’s staff (if the Spaniard is still in charge of course).
David Luiz didn’t fix Arsenal defensively. In the twilight of his career it was naive for anyone to expect him too. What he did do though is mentor a youthful dressing room and set standards.
While some will feel he was another Chelsea cast off, given to us because he was past his best, his professionalism and work rate could never be questioned.
Popular among the squad, he wasn’t here for a final pay day.
We have won 14 FA Cups in our history and he can always say he played a massive part in one of them. For 8 million, that’s not too bad.
The biggest compliment to give Luiz is we missed him in the semi-Final of the Europa League. That’s because he’s a big game player!
Thank You David Luiz (there were times I didn’t think I would be saying that!)
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