Arsenal’s desperate need to sign a centre back in the eleventh hour of the transfer window led them to an unlikely source: Chelsea’s David Luiz.
With just less than 24 hours remaining until the English transfer window slammed shut, shock reports initially emanating from France claimed that Luiz had refused to train at Chelsea in order to push through a move to Arsenal.
A more credible outlet, Sky Sports, have now confirmed that the Brazilian is indeed on his way to the North London side.
The 32-year-old was reportedly concerned about the amount of regular football he will be given by Frank Lampard with Kurt Zouma set to feature prominently under the new Chelsea boss.
Unai Emery, meanwhile, is desperate to reinforce his central defensive options following Laurent Koscielny’s move to Bordeaux. Luiz is a proven performer in the Premier League and will need time to settle down in the Gunners backline.
With earlier reports also confirming Kieran Tierney’s imminent move to the club as well, Arsenal fans can expect some key changes in the team’s backline this season.
Reaction to the news has understandably been mixed with some Arsenal fans suggesting that Luiz’s passing qualities would add a useful dimension to the team’s style of play.
Others, though, regard signing the bushy-haired Brazilian as an accident waiting to happen, particularly given the existing presence of error-prone Shkodran Mustafi in their backline.
Putting to bed the above statement; this statistical analysis gives foresight into how the much experienced Luiz will be an upgrade to Arsenal’s defensive options.
A further comparison between the Brazilian and Sokratis Papasthatopoulos (one of Arsenal’s constants) gives a clearer insight into the earlier mentioned narrative.
Chelsea enjoyed more possession on average than Arsenal did last season with 60% compared to 56% meaning Sokratis had slightly more defending to do than Luiz might have which alters certain individual statistics.
For instance, playing in a team that defended more, Sokratis narrowly edged Luiz for tackles won (42-41). 31 of Luiz’ tackles out of a notable 41, came out successful compared to the Greek’s 25 despite making one more tackle.
That alone shows more precision in tackles that could be very useful in decisive situations.
The Brazilian however, tops the former in all other defensive regards. David Luiz made a decent 18 blocks in total, just higher than that of Sokratis at 17.
In terms of interceptions and clearances though, the Brazilian easily tops the former with 36 interceptions compared to 25 and 144 clearances compared to 108.
Off the ground, David Luiz superbly comes out on top as well. His 83 headed clearances totally dwarfs that of his opposite number who could only manage 43 headed clearances. The Brazilian also comes out superior in aerial duels won; with 82 compared to the Greek’s 56.
In recent times, the Gunners have looked vulnerable defending set pieces and the addition of a towering 6′3″ defender could do well to correct that deficit.
If Emery is looking for a centre-half that can physically dominate opponents, Luiz doesn’t appear to fit the bill completely.
Instead, his game has always been based around spraying passes across the pitch and progressing the ball out of defence.
In that regard, Luiz would definitely offer an upgrade to Sokratis.
He ranked top across any player in the division for through balls completed with 41, averaged 72 passes per game compared to 64 for Mustafi and enjoyed an 88% pass completion rate to 83% for Sokratis.
Judging by his form towards the end of last season and even into Arsenal’s warm-up matches for the upcoming campaign, there would be plenty of defenders who would offer an upgrade to Sokratis/ his partner Mustafi at this time.
Luiz, despite his age and tendency to commit an error would be a welcome addition in the heart of Arsenal’s defence, owing primarily to the quality of his distribution as well as his improved concentration levels since his return to English football in 2016.