In purely footballing terms there isn’t much to debate when Arsenal consider whether to take up the one year option in David Luiz’s contract.
Certainly his early weeks in north London were pockmarked with errors all too familiar to Chelsea fans and at a greater frequency than they witnessed them at Stamford Bridge. In 160 games for the Blues he conceded three penalties. He matched that tally in 24 games in an Arsenal shirt.
Yet by the time football reached its temporary hiatus Luiz had firmly established himself as one of the most crucial components of Mikel Arteta’s short-term plans. The Brazilian was one of only three players, along with Mesut Ozil and Bernd Leno, to start every Premier League game for the Spaniard.
Luiz was fundamental to Arteta’s tactical plans, his ability to push the team forward from deep and unleash Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with incisive through balls of vital importance to Arsenal’s build-up play.
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Off the field he has been one of the most important champions of Arteta’s work, swiftly buying into the overarching message and the forthright demands that the Spaniard gave on his arrival in December. Luiz may only have arrived at Arsenal in August but he immediately became an influential figure in the dressing room, much admired by younger squad members such as Calum Chambers and Rob Holding for all that he has won.
He even found understudies of his own in Gabriel Martinelli and Pablo Mari. The latter arrived in January to find Luiz eager to meet with and work alongside this new Spanish centre-back who had been so crucial in earning a Copa Libetadores and Brazilian league double for his mentor, Flamengo boss Jorge Jesus.
Luiz is a vocal cheerleader for his Arsenal team-mates and crucially for his manager. Arteta will not have failed to notice that his centre-half recently described him as the nearest he could hope to get to working with Pep Guardiola.
“I am grateful because I made another dream come true,” he said last month. “Not in a concrete way, but in a different way. I always had the dream of working with [Pep] Guardiola.
“I couldn’t work with him, but I’m having the opportunity to work with a person who grew up and learned and was victorious with him, who has the same ideas.”
That admiration is shared by Arteta, who is understood to be reluctant to let Luiz depart.
It is worth noting that the Brazilian’s dressing room influence has not always been leveraged for good and during his interim tenure Freddie Ljungberg is understood to have not looked entirely favourably on Luiz’s role during the weeks before Unai Emery’s sacking.
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