It is probably not wise for me to write this so soon after Arsenal’s defeat to Manchester City. The restart of the Premier League has led to so few surprises for us Arsenal fans and as a result, emotions are high. I guess that the best kind of reportage is balanced and bias free and so, I will try to keep it that way. But this will be hard given the subject of this piece, so do forgive me if I slip up.
First of all, I guess that the “tragedy” I am referring to could be a little harsh. Despite his familiar characteristics, David Luiz has been an immensely successful player. He has won everything there is to win in England, both major European titles, and has been capped fifty-seven times for Brazil. He has captained his national side and has worn the armband, at some point or other, for Chelsea and PSG. Throughout his career, he has been selected for numerous “Team of the Year” awards and has cost approximately £107 million in transfer fees. Yet, you probably won’t be asking, “how exactly is this a tragedy?!” It is more than likely that you already know the answer. Not helped by his Sideshow Bob-esque haircut, Luiz has become something of a comedy act amongst football fans. Known for howlers, rash decisions, and playing altogether like the remote-control helicopter you received one Christmas that crashed straight into the tree and broke the first time you tried to fly it.
He may be a player with immense skill but ultimately, his ability to cock it up has always let him down.
It is at this point I want to focus on David Luiz’s move to Arsenal. I remember the rumours, the price tag, the statement from the club. Head in hands, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. Here we had an already calamitous defence, “strengthened” by someone known for being as reliable as Boris Johnson’s attendance at a Cobra meeting. Despite Luiz’s well-known antics, the signing was well received by fans and lauded over by respected journalists. ‘English football gets David Luiz wrong’ read a headline from Barney Ronay in the Guardian – ‘He is a fine Arsenal signing.’ Once again, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. “It’s easy to say in hindsight!” I hear you roar. But seeing as I have written about this before and just the fact that it was blindingly fucking obvious, it’s very much a case of spect rather than retrospect.
Maybe I’m wrong – it wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe I have been swept away by the emotion of the first Arsenal game in three months. Maybe we will look back at David Luiz’s career in years to come and consider him one of the finest defenders of his generation. But here is the fact: you cannot be a world class player without consistency. It is all well and good having four fine games out of five, but it is that fifth performance that makes a difference. Luiz has had many fine games, done many fine things, even in an Arsenal shirt (a game winning goal in an important home fixture against Bournemouth comes to mind). But Luiz has done plenty of stupid things too. His red card against Chelsea earlier on in the season as well as some horrendous examples of defending against Tottenham in the North London Derby show why Luiz is viewed in the way that he is. The numbers for the season make for uncomfortable reading. In this season’s Premier League, Luiz has conceded four penalties (twice as many as anyone else and also the joint record in Premier League history), he has the most red cards and is second when it comes to outfield player errors leading to goals. He may be a player with immense skill but ultimately, his ability to cock it up has always let him down.
Wednesday night saw Arsenal lose yet another away game to a team in the top six. The last time they won one was consequently at the Etihad in 2015 – a truly woeful record. Arsenal may have lost that game irrespective of Luiz’s mistakes, but it is undeniable that the defeat weighs heavily on his shoulders. With the question of his contract expiring in a matter of weeks and his ban taking him out of the squad, it would be surprising to see Luiz wearing an Arsenal shirt again. Even before the game, Arteta seemed to have made his mind up: ‘There are a few things that happened in recent weeks. I have to pick the team that in my opinion is the best to compete today.’ Luiz started on the bench. Like most heroes, it is their tragic flaw that leads to their downfall. Macbeth had his ambition, Hamlet had his procrastination, Lear had his misjudgements. Luiz? I guess he is just a bit too shit, a bit too often.