David Luiz’s struggles for Arsenal against Liverpool leaves Unai Emery with some awkward questions to ask



David Luiz has never been someone to take criticism well, which is one major reason Frank Lampard got rid of such a senior player, so the wonder now is how Unai Emery is gradually going to deal with the same issue.

The Basque already knows David Luiz from their year together at Paris Saint-Germain, but the lopsided reality of the French league means they never had too many situations like that at Anfield. And that situation was one where it was impossible not to criticise him.

And that’s not just for the errors, even though he had varying culpability for all three goals.

There’s also the greater problem that he was effectively signed to take command of that Arsenal backline. Instead, it never seemed under any kind of control at all, and you can take your pick of the errors he made.

All of them summed up a different flaw in David Luiz’s defensive game, that suggested this is indeed going to be a growing problem – even allowing for how good Liverpool are.

The bottom line is that, for a player of such talent, he has just never been that comfortable in a two-man central-defensive pairing. That makes it all the more surprising that a manager as tactically astute as Emery has signed him up specifically for that role.

Really, the Basque is going to have to get used to more of this.

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The first Liverpool goal was actually the one where David Luiz was least culpable, and yet perhaps illustrates the greatest problem of all.

A manager as adept at defensive organisation as Chris Hughton has said the Brazilian’s main issue in defence is, well, that he doesn’t think like a defender. He “thinks like an attacker” and thereby doesn’t think “territorially”. You couldn’t have a greater example of that as a set-piece like for the first goal. David Luiz is the player who is supposed to be organising that area, for those moments, and yet there was little promising evidence of that. Joel Matip almost had the freedom of the box to head in the opening goal.

What was worse was that, even there, they were outfoxed. Jurgen Klopp joked afterwards that the Arsenal defence seemed like they were “building something around” Virgil van Dijk, such was the level of attention he received. So they seemingly just let Matip go. It showed organisation, sure, but bad organisation.

What was really damning, though, was the fact Liverpool had an identical opportunity – from an identical amount of space – moments later.

After that, the more individualised elements of David Luiz’s defensive flaws became apparent.

There was next an all-too-familiar brain-freeze, as he so blatantly – and so clumsily slowly – pulled Mohamed Salah’s shirt for the penalty.

The Brazilian was admittedly just beaten for pace for the third goal, as so many are with Salah, but it’s impossible not to feel another imperfection in his defensive game contributed to it. Those who work with David Luiz say that, because he thinks like an attacker, he often thinks in terms of “duels”. He too often looks to get on the front foot. That can lead to some of his rasher moments, where goes flying in.

Here, it led to him being left standing there, on a booking so forced to just step aside as Salah powered past.

You could say that was a microcosm of the game, and Liverpool’s usual easy victories over Arsenal.

Luiz endured a tough game at Anfield (AP)

David Luiz couldn’t change that, and could instead come in for fair criticism.

It feels like, because of the very nature of his game and his transfer, that is also going to come quite regularly.

The evidence of his career illustrates that he is only really a centre-half when he gets to play in the middle of a three, and doesn’t have to do much defending.

That doesn’t mean he can’t play in a two at all – and he can be very good there – but it does mean you’d better expect some flaws; some big errors.

And he’d better expect more criticism.



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