The Hard Tackle looks into David Luiz’s controversial one-year contract extension and how it could impact Arsenal’s future in the coming season.
David Luiz never seems to fade away from the limelight. And after a three-month break from football due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Arsenal defender has once again become the focal point of discussion in the footballing world over the past couple of weeks.
It all started with his disastrous performance against Manchester City that saw him get sent off as Arsenal restarted their Premier League campaign with a 3-0 defeat. Luiz was rightly given a two-match suspension.
However, the following week, the Brazilian was offered a contract extension – a move from the Arsenal board that divided the club’s fanbase, with a majority of them criticising the decision.
And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a deeper look into Luiz’s situation at Arsenal and how his extension could affect the Gunners in the near future.
David Luiz’s miserable debut campaign at Arsenal
Back in August of last year, signing Luiz seemed like a no-brainer for Arsenal. The Brazilian was a cheap yet experienced and valuable acquisition for the Gunners, especially following the sudden departure of club captain Laurent Koscielny.
Luiz was, therefore, an ideal alternative for the experienced Frenchman. His leadership, aggression and winning mentality were perfect ingredients for an Arsenal defence that had lacked discipline for quite some time.
But, the results have been far from perfect. In fact, Luiz has been hugely detrimental for Arsenal this season – making a host of errors that have either led to goals or penalties for the opposition.
One of the earliest red flags in Luiz’s performances for Arsenal this campaign came against Liverpool back in August. Just after half-time, the defender pulled back Mohamed Salah’s shirt that resulted in a penalty, which was later converted by the Egyptian. In the same game, Luiz once again failed to keep track of the winger, whose sensational speed allowed him acres of space in behind the Arsenal backline.
In January, the ex-PSG star had a miserable time against his former club Chelsea. He was sent off within 26 minutes when he fouled Tammy Abraham, who was clean through on goal. Arsenal, however, showed excellent character to churn out a 2-2 draw in that game.
Other instances include a silly foul on Roberto Pereyra in the defeat to Watford while completely losing sight of Aston Villa attackers to allow John McGinn to score. But, it was against Manchester City when Luiz endured arguably the worst game of his Arsenal career.
The 33-year-old initially came on as a 25th-minute substitute for the injured Pablo Mari. He first misjudged the flight of the ball to allow Raheem Sterling to score late in the first half. And it was followed by a foul on Riyad Mahrez that led to a straight red card, with the defender also receiving a two-match suspension.
Such instances of sheer incompetence have left the Arsenal defence vulnerable throughout the course of the campaign.
Arsenal’s grim prospects in the summer
The contract extension of Luiz had a lot to do with Arsenal’s insecurity in the upcoming transfer market. Although they have already signed Mari on a permanent basis, the financial shortcomings inflicted by the coronavirus could cripple their market strategy.
Aside from lack of funds, Arsenal are set to face immense competition, with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Manchester City also in the hunt for new defenders in the summer. It could make it significantly difficult for the Gunners to get their hands of players like Dayot Upamecano or even Robin Koch.
Another key issue for Arsenal is the stacked defensive department. Manager Arteta has at least five options at centre-back. It essentially means that the club must offload at least two first-team defenders in order to make space and fund moves for other targets in the market.
Repercussions of keeping Luiz at the club next season
Amidst all the controversy surrounding Luiz’s performances at Arsenal, the defender has actually fared well off the pitch. He has emerged as a vocal figure behind Arteta’s philosophy and ethos that has engineered a change of culture at Arsenal.
On the flip side, though, the potential departure of Sokratis or Mustafi should elevate Luiz’s role as the desired option at centre-back alongside Mari next season. And this could significantly halt the progress of young players in the side. William Saliba, for one, could be one of them.
The Frenchman, who was signed from Saint-Etienne last summer, is set to return from his loan spell in the summer. He is already tipped as one of the most exciting young defenders in French football. But, with Luiz being considered as a first-team option, Saliba’s overall game time could only be restricted to domestic cups or Europa League matches.
The biggest issue, of course, stems from Luiz’s incompetence on the pitch. While someone of his experience could always be useful for an otherwise young Arsenal side, the defender’s evident decline is a major stumbling block in the club’s long-term dream of restoring its former glory under Arteta.