Two and a half months ago, Arsenal were in shambles. David Luiz single-handedly cost us the game against Manchester City after 2 comical errors – one, a poor judgement of a long ball and the other, a silly foul to give a penalty away and get sent off.
There was a lot of anger on Luiz that night from the fanbase, but he was the first one that came out after the game to the media and issued a direct apology to the team and the fans, blaming ‘only himself’ for the defeat.
About a week later, it was announced that his contract was extended by a year which received mixed reactions. Arteta did not start Luiz against City that day, not because he did really anything wrong, but due to the contractual issues, which Luiz himself implied in the presser should have been sorted earlier. He only came on due to the injury to Pablo Mari.
That sort of uncertainty cannot do a player any good and whilst Luiz did make mistakes in the past, he was arguably our best centre back under Arteta till that point.
He strikes me as someone who will give everything and play for a manager that he believes in, but on the other hand his performance levels can really drop when he doesn't like the direction the club is heading, as evidenced by some really lackadaisical displays under Unai Emery.
The contrast in his individual performances under Arteta is not only due to a better structure in the way we're setup, but also his personal belief in Arteta's vision. Speaking to Sky Sports, Luiz stated:
'For me, Arteta is going to be one of the best coaches in the world. I have had the opportunity to have many coaches during my career. He is intelligent, he was a player, he is clever. I think he's going to be one of the best, but it's part of our job to help him do that, especially in the beginning because everybody doubts."
This quote was on December 30th, when Arteta was less than a week into his managerial reign and had only picked up a single point. It isn't that Luiz drops his level if the team play badly, it is all in the head for him, a point Jose Mourinho has also alluded to whilst doing punditry for Sky.
After back to back defeats since Project restart, Arteta was quick to switch to a back three. Despite Rob Holding putting in a man of the match display against The Saints, Luiz took his place as soon as he returned from suspension.
Such is Arteta's trust in Luiz and in the centre of the back 3, a position he thrived under Conte, Luiz showed the world that even at the age of 33, he has so much left in him. The display against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final was a phenomenal remontada - it was one of the best we’ve witnessed from an Arsenal center back in recent times.
He stated in an interview with Globo Esporte that he always wanted to work with Guardiola, but that dream is a reality now as Arteta has such ideas too - such is his willingness to learn.
Literally every player in the squad, especially the youngsters all hold Luiz in such high regard - you watch interviews of Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, all of them mention Luiz as helping them settle in and give them advice. It also helps Arteta get his message across when you see the player they looked upto in the dressing room heaping praise and belief in him.
There's a reason he's won so many trophies, his experience in big moments proved crucial as evidenced in the final of the FA Cup - Arsenal did not crumble after 1-0. Go and have a watch of a replay of the game. The one player Arteta is always in deep conversation with is Luiz. He is also the player Arteta said could become a coach one day, so it will be interesting to see how well he fares in a few years’ time.
Arsenal have found good balance in a 3-4-3, even if it may not be deployed in the longer term. Whilst William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães are fantastic talents, there is a question mark on how soon they can adapt. Luiz can make this process easier for both of them. He can be a fantastic mentor at the heart of a back three, guiding them both through the game. It is a truly exciting proposition considering all three of them are good on the ball, so that will surely help us progress play better.
Luiz is also said to have played a role in the pay-cuts, something I referred to in my piece on Luiz pre-lockdown. It will be interesting to see the development of our center backs and other youngsters, with Luiz emerging as an important figure.
Chelsea have signed Thiago Silva at 35 who is still playing at a high level. Luiz, being the hard- worker he is can still go on for another year or two in a back 3. Even if he is gone before that, it wouldn't be before he played a role in the integration of Saliba and Gabriel. Arteta's faith in him has really paid off