Arsenal Would Be Dropping the Ball (Again) By Letting David Luiz Leave

David Luiz has often divided opinion. He's more than aware that he's not everyone's cup of tea, and the Brazilian - now in his seventh season in England with his second club Arsenal - has been reported to be on the way out of the Emirates Stadium come the end of the season.

At 33, this represents a significant crossroads for the centre half who has recently spoken of his desire to return to Benfica to finish his career. But you can't help feeling that the Gunners may be disregarding his value to the squad and may come to regret the decision not to extend his contract past the end of this season.

For Arsenal, the reasons for moving on from Luiz could be indeed valid, and most likely involve giving some younger players an opportunity moving forward, and a view to signing a new centre back when - or if - the transfer window opens this summer.

The problem for Mikel Arteta, however, is that the squad is criminally lacking in leadership. The removal of Granit Xhaka as captain in dramatic circumstances earlier this season, and the possible departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, mean the Arsenal ship could look rather rudderless without some experienced hands marshalling the exciting young prospects.

Luiz has proven himself to be a great mentor to younger players and has been highly tipped to go into management when his career does come to an end. Latest arrival Pablo Mari (also a centre back) spoke of Luiz's caring demeanour from the moment he arrived: “He’s helped me loads: anything I needed, he was there,” The signing from Flamengo told The Guardian. “David is so intelligent, great in the dressing room, always joking but the first to pull on his overalls to work.”

Much of the criticism of David Luiz in the past has been focused on his decision making; mainly his rashness under pressure and a need to put offensive flare over defensive duty. But it's when he has had clear direction and a vision to play to that suits his style, that managers get the very best out of him.

Antonio Conte, Rafael Benitez, Maurizio Sarri and now Mikel Arteta have all employed philosophies and systems that suit Luiz's ball playing, offensive-minded game. Whether that be in the middle of a back three or in a standard four, or in Benitez's case, in midfield; they were happy marriages for Luiz and the manager.

It's when he's been asked to play in a way he's not comfortable with, or when he hasn't felt respected, that the problems have surfaced. After one of those (many) tricky periods under Unai Emery, Arteta affirmed earlier this year that Luiz was one of the senior and remarkably reliable figures in the dressing room that he was counting on moving forward. We may not now see how that could have developed.

Luiz's time at Chelsea however, will always be what the majority of his career will be defined by and he won't mind that in the slightest. After all, he has won virtually every domestic honour not to mention a Champions League title with the Blues.

The defining moments in a Blue shirt came either side of his world record switch to France, with his brave display in the Champions League final of 2012 where he played 120 minutes on virtually one leg and then later in the Premier League title winning side of 2017, as part of the famous Conte 3-5-2 system that dominated the league from start to finish.

It's not inconceivable that another Premier League club may wish to take Luiz onboard but the reality is that Luiz has always played the transfer game his way. Rarely dictated to and often moving on before he is pushed (take his exit from Chelsea last summer as a prime example), he will not want to be seen as being shunted out. He may well hold out for a move to Portugal as he has hinted but it wouldn't be shock to see another top European side take a gamble on him even at his age.

For now though, it's a good opportunity to look back at the career of one of the most successful defenders in world football. Yes, he is by no means a John Terry or a Sergio Ramos, but he has brought an infectious style and sense of humour; and arguably was ahead of his time as far as the attacking side of the defensive game goes.

There is surely still life very much still left in the Premier League for Luiz but if it's not to be, you can't say it hasn't been entertaining.

Source : 90min