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Sambafoot Sunday: Is David Luiz Central To Brazil’s Plans?

Reuters
Would Brazil be better off playing David Luiz as a centre back, or defensive midfielder?

Sambafoot Sunday by James Nalton. The beat goes on...

David Luiz is a player who divides opinion, thanks to his ability to go from the sublime to the reckless within minutes on the football pitch.

At times he can seem like the best defender in world football, and even more convincing in the centre-back role than his compatriot Thiago Silva, who’s often considered the best around in that position.

Then on other occasions he can be a liability; appearing to forget his responsibilities on the pitch as he roams forward in a manner which can be exciting to watch, but one which also disregards his team’s security and the health of his manager. This wandering might be OK if Luiz had a solid set of defenders covering for him as he goes off on these jaunts, but with Daniel Alves and Marcelo as your full-backs, this is likely to place a lot of pressure on the one remaining member of the back four!

As a result of this unpredictability, his manager at club level, José Mourinho, has taken to playing him in defensive midfield for some of Chelsea’s bigger games this season. Here Luiz can use defensive abilities such as tackling, heading ability, and a reading of the game which is second to none on a good day, whilst also posing less of a risk should he decide to wander, as he has the staid presence of a Mourinho back four behind him.

With Luiz in midfield, you maintain his ability to scoop a free kick over a wall with that side foot technique he possesses, and also increase the chances of him getting a similarly taken goal in open play.

To take Chelsea’s convincing 6-0 win against Arsenal as an example, Luiz was the team’s top tackler according to WhoScored with four, had more shots on target than any other player, and boasted a pass success rate of 93%.

He was also employed in this position, alongside Nemanja Matic, in his side’s important away win at Manchester City. Whilst his attacking and possession stats were less impressive in this game, his defensive contribution from midfield played a big part in the victory. His three tackles and two interceptions were part of a team effort in defence, and he still managed to get off five shots, albeit wayward ones.

With this in mind, would it make sense for Scolari to play Luiz in this position for Brazil’s bigger games in the World Cup, bringing Dante in to partner Thiago Silva? Or would he trust Luiz to consistently put in the type of performance he gave in the Confederations Cup final against Spain? His goal-line clearance in that final showed his brilliance at centre back, especially his reading of the game and an awareness of what his team-mates and the opposition are about to do.

Brazil happen to be blessed with talent in the central midfield positions, meaning Scolari is likely to go with the latter option...

The problem is, you always get the feeling that Luiz at centre back is just as likely to present a goal-scoring chance to the opposition, as he is to prevent one.

 
 

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