David Luiz – an unsurprising turnaround in form

The man who looks like a 10 year old is controlling him on a playstation is suddenly the best player at Stamford Bridge. It is quite a turnaround for the Brazilian. But we should not be as surprised as we seem by this sudden turn of events.

Luiz, is of course, a Brazilian, and that means he comes from an entirely different defensive culture. Brazilian defensive lines, unlike those in England are very deep. Luiz came from Brazil, with that type of defending, and continued to excel at Benfica. Though they were an attacking team and he played alongside the not particularly quick Luisao, Luiz was brilliant for Benfica. But they were pragmatic as well as attacking, and would set up more defensively against the big teams.

In a league where he didn’t have to learn a new language and rarely thrust into a big game having to play a high line, Luiz always looked good. And he was recommended to Chelsea by their manager Carlo Ancelotti last year. Ancelotti was another coach who likes to play a deep defensive line, so it was perhaps little surprise that Luiz would have seemed a great choice for a manager who likes to play deep but to then attack with skill, like the Italian.

Luiz fitted perfectly. But then in came Andre Villas Boas and Luiz simply did not fit into his style. Luiz probably would have looked better alongside a quicker centre back for Chelsea, but neither Gary Cahill or John Terry can boast such attributes. Therefore Luiz has had to deal with the criticism this year despite being played in a system alien to him, in many ways. He is not the kind of player used to having to play at such a high tempo type of football and so high up the pitch.

Yet now, with Roberto di Matteo in charge, Luiz is good again. And it is no surprise. Since Terry took over as manager, sorry, di Matteo, Chelsea have played a deeper defensive system. They have been more pragmatic. Against Napoli they sat very deep at times. It has been that gaping hole between defence and goalkeeper which has exposed Chelsea for much of the year. But now they are free to drop back into their more comfortable defensive system. It means the defence doesn’t need to have pace. And that suits Luiz, when he is not playing alongside a player with that attribute.

We should not be surprised at his up turn in form. But if Chelsea want to play more expansive football with Luiz in the side, they really need to sign a quick defender to play alongside him when they put out a more attacking formation and a higher defensive line.