The trouble with assumptions is, like a certain old saying goes, make enough of them and they’ll make you look like an idiot. That’s actually not exactly how the old saying goes, but that’s somewhat fitting given how we’ve now tried to guess twice what David Luiz’s status for Sunday may be, and it would appear that we’ve now guessed twice incorrectly.
First, once realizing that he was nowhere to be found in the videos of training that were posted by Chelsea this week, we had a bit of a minor panic. After all, there are no ready-made replacements for him in the squad at the moment. Then, after Conte’s press conference this morning, where he said that only Terry and Oscar would be unavailable tomorrow, we breathed a sigh of relief. David Luiz himself posted a video of some 1-on-1 agility training and he was looking as nimble as ever. Phew!
But as quotes from the non-televised press conference start making the late-day media rounds, it would appear that David Luiz’s status is not quite as rosy as we had assumed in the morning...
“I have to check tomorrow if David Luiz is able to play on Sunday because, after this tackle... this tackle was very bad. And I have to check on his recovery from his injury. It will be very important tomorrow for him and for me to decide whether he's able to play on Sunday.”
"That tackle was dangerous, for sure. I watched the images and I was afraid (he might be injured). I was scared. He's trying to recover from this tackle.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Evening Standard
So yeah, that’s not nearly as promising. My guess and my obvious hope remains that he’s available to play (we should all be familiar with David Luiz’s ability to play through pain and injury), but given his importance to the team, we should probably be very, very careful. We might be able to get away with someone else playing in his stead for a game or two, but if he had to miss extended time with an aggravated injury, our season could quickly turn sourer once again.
That last sentence may not have been one we were expecting to write when we re-signed David Luiz in the summer, but in Conte’s 3-4-3, he’s quickly become more indispensable to the squad that the had ever been. Part of that is the system itself, which puts him in a position from where he can inflict maximum damage on the opposition and minimum damage on himself and the team, but part of that is his own development as a defender as well. David himself reflected on this in a recent interview.
“Yes [I’m playing better now than before], if not that means I’m going the wrong way. You need to be ready to improve every day and be available to do that immediately, from your first day. If I think I am the same player as many years before, this is not a good mentality.”
“I improve every day. It was a new League with a new philosophy [at PSG], different players and a different culture, so I was happy there. I won a lot and learnt a lot.”
"When you get older, you want to organise your bedroom more than when you are young, no? It’s quite like this, [taking an active leadership role], just part of getting older."
-David Luiz; source: Evening Standard
If David Luiz can’t go on Sunday, presumably Ivanović, Zouma, or perhaps Mikel would slot in somewhere in the back three as a sort of half-solution to the problem (Terry’s injured and young Fikayo Tomori just played on Friday for the U23s). Hopefully we won’t have to find out what Conte would do.