To say David Luiz is a brilliant defender is like saying Luis Suarez is militant vegetarian. He isn’t a defender, he’s a footballer. What do I mean by that? Well, he’s a footballer who happens to play in defensive role where manager’s pick him for his attacking attributes over his defensive. With the ball he looks a £50 million pound player. Without it, he’s his own keeper’s nightmare.
There are players who are born with an in-built sensor that goes off at the mere hint of danger. John Terry is a perfect example of a defender with great awareness of what’s happening around him. Whether it’s having the peripheral vision to see an opponent drift off his shoulder, then adjusting his body to pick him up, or the intelligence to prioritize an area of the box and simply mark space when that will be his best option in nullifying potential danger, more often than not, he’s always thinking and looking around him like a central defensive owl. Neither is it an old fashioned footballers trait either. Everton’s John Stones had it in abundance as a 16 year old kid at Barnsley and exhibits it most weeks at Goodison.
Luiz’s qualities shine when he is playing in a team which dominates possession of a game, limiting the amount of defensive work he will have to do but when it comes to games which are a test to what should be his position’s basic requirements, he lets his side down. his performance against Barcelona exemplifies this perfectly. That said, this has to be qualified by saying much better, more natural defenders have had their pants pulled down and their backsides spanked by Suarez, Messi et al in the past and will do so in the future, but David Luiz’s serial inability to stop a pig in a passage is down to two things; A) a fundamental flaw in his defending technique and b) Suarez’s genius.
Firstly, it is Luiz’s failure to apply the simplest of techniques when pressing and opponent. Players as young as ten with any coaching could probably tell you that you approach an opponent side-on so as to try and control his movement by showing him where you’d prefer him to go whilst adopting a slightly crouched stance, giving you a lower centre of gravity allowing you to change direction and stick with him should he do so. What Luiz tends to do is stand bolt upright and run square-on to the ball, which restricts his own agility and gives his opponent the opportunity to slip the ball through his legs.
Secondly, credit must be given to Suarez too. He is quite brilliant at quickly shifting the ball and his body weight from one foot to another, forcing the defender to change his body position and squaring up his stance as he changes direction. It’s one of Suarez’s true gifts and gives him a valuable yard’s head-start when taking on a defender as he knows it’s a cardinal sin of defending to allow yourself to get “squared-up” because it takes a split second longer to turn and chase the attacking player.
And if Luis Suarez knows that, then surely Luiz should too, or at the very least have a coach around him that reminds him from time to time of the correct technique. Although you might forgive a coach for thinking a player costing £50 million pounds wouldn’t need reminding of that, especially since Suarez has made Luiz look a fool whilst he was wearing Chelsea blue too. Players that never learn will always get burned and unfortunately for David Luiz, he’ll have a couple of wounds that need nursing this morning and unless he changes he’s going to have to buy Savlon in bulk load.