According to the Evening Standard, David Luiz returned to training on Wednesday with the rest of his Chelsea teammates who were not called for international duty by their respective nations. David Luiz’s “banishment” from training thus ends almost as soon as it had begun.
But all may not be well, or certainly not just yet...
Antonio Conte sensationally dropped “one of the best” center backs in the world, who had excelled in that central position since returning to the club the previous summer, giving the start to 21-year-old Loan Army exception Andreas Christensen instead for the season’s most crucial game yet on Sunday. Christensen played very well, justifying Conte’s decision, which the coach was more than happy to point out after the game.
“David Luiz was a tactical decision, as Andreas Christensen is the present and the future of this team. The choice was a natural one and the facts proved me right.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Sky Italia via Football Italia
Of course, as the facts, the circumstances, and the various post-match quotes revealed, the decision was far more complex than just a purely tactical one. Christensen may in fact be the future of the team, but he was the present already against Manchester United because of some sort of discord between Conte and David Luiz.
Whether that’s based purely on his individual performance and commitment (“He has to work really hard, otherwise he is on the bench or in the stands”), or some sort of disagreement over the past month of mixed Chelsea results and performances (as multiple reports have claimed, including this latest one from the Standard), or perhaps something more personal and deep-seated (and Costa-related, as the tabloids are claiming), remains to be seen.
While Chelsea appear to be keen to play down any suggestions of this being a repeat of the Conte vs. Costa situation from around this time last season — the “dressing room bust up”, which turned out to be just the appetizer for the blazing row main course and the heaps upon heaps of transfer drama dessert after the season — it’s not easy to completely dismiss such concerns.
For what it’s worth, David Luiz, who’s certainly more conscious and careful of his public image than Diego Costa, posted about supporting and watching on TV as Chelsea Ladies beat FC Rosengard earlier today. Then again, Costa (or his PR people) would post happy things on his Instagram as well last season only to eventually reveal that there had been issues if not from day one, then certainly from January on.
Conte and David Luiz now have ten days to hug it out and smooth over any differences between Chelsea play again, away at The Hawthorns on the 18th. Regardless of whether David Luiz is restored to the first-choice lineup or not, he will be needed as the team face 14 games in the span of 45 days, culminating in the first game of the new calendar year, away to Arsenal at the Emirates.