To suggest that David Luiz was Chelsea's Plan A, or even Plan B as far as defensive reinforcements in the summer transfer window were concerned, would probably be very wrong. Same could be said for Marcos Alonso.
Yet, here we are, with both of them playing crucial roles in Conte's new system. A testament to the coach for finding the right "solution" after a couple different tries, one that brings out the best in the most players most of the time. Sometimes results will be perfect, like against Manchester United and Southampton. Other times, they won't be. They key is to have a good game-plan and give the proper tactical instructions.
"You need to prepare and plan for each game in the best way. Sometimes, when you play away, you need to understand that the opposition might have more possession of the ball."
"The home team can often be more excited playing in front of their own fans so you have to play with intelligence and wait, like a sniper, for an opportunity. Southampton was that type of game. We found ourselves in good positions and we shot to kill. It's important to understand when you need to play that type of game and when you need to impose yourself and be more dominant. For me, the key is to try to understand the best plan for each specific game."
For David Luiz himself, the new tactics and his role as the center-most center back have actually decreased his involvement on the ball, and increased his involvement as an on-pitch leader, especially in the absence of John Terry. Being a leader is not a strange concept for the 29-year-old and he's taken to his new instructions with familiar gusto and commitment.
"I have the best job in the world and it doesn't matter which system we play. You need to do what's required in your particular role but I want to do my best for the team, not for myself. I have to be alert, to look around and to cover because it's important for me to have that vision."
"I think Azpi and Gary have more opportunities on the ball than me in this formation but against Leicester I was able to get on the ball a lot. When you play with three in defence you try to play out from the back into midfield so they can create more."
"I have that side of my personality, to be a leader and to organise. A leader needs to be available to give something for others. I've had that in my character since I was young but of course I understand that now there is a responsibility, as somebody who has been here before and played many games, to use the experiences I've picked up in my career to help the youngsters."
-David Luiz; source: Chelsea FC
Garry Hayes of Bleacher Report wrote a nice bit of analysis on David Luiz and how the new role has made him a better defender by requiring him to actually defend less than ever before. It's certainly an interesting way to look at it, though perhaps we're just seeing the same David Luiz as before (he was, after all, very good in his midfield role that required many similar things in terms of distribution, playmaking, pressing, and closing-down) but is now supported by an extra man, which makes all the difference (for him and Cahill, too, come to think of it). In any case, give it a read.
How Antonio Conte Has Made David Luiz a Better Defender by Him Not Defending (@garryhayes - @BleacherReport) https://t.co/4S3HkcIqn7— SportsREDEF (@SportsREDEF) November 3, 2016
Fortunately, David Luiz has not lost his joie de vivre, as seen here at Friday's signing in the Chelsea Megastore or in glimpses from the training ground where he sneaks up and gives a giant bear hug to Chelsea TV presenter Lee Parker.
A more "mature", for lack of a better word, David Luiz on the pitch, same old David Luiz off the pitch. The best of both worlds.