Normally, David Luiz is a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, but last season, not even his brilliance could break through the brooding darkness gathering over Stamford Bridge. In fact, he was rarely seen in a Chelsea shirt starting in the winter, outside of a few appearances behind the bench as the season wound down.
The official reason behind Antonio Conte dropping him from the lineup and then, by all appearances, from the squad altogether was a run of injuries, including a recurrence of the knee that was assaulted by Sergio Aguero, plus an ankle problem, and perhaps others, too.
But many also believed that behind the scenes, David was one of the increasing number of players (especially Brazilians, as the narrative went) whose relationship with the head coach, despite all the good that had come before, had long been fractured. The center back’s clear and present anger upon being substituted against AS Roma at the Bridge only added fuel to the fire.
Unlike Willian, who recently confirmed that he very much had a problem with the now former Chelsea head coach, David Luiz denied having any issues with Conte. Whether he is being genuine, or using his experience as a dressing room leader to maintain some degree of diplomacy, could be up for debate, but we might as well take him at his word.
“No, [I had no issues with him]. I had, as you mentioned, bad moments with injuries. That did not allow me to repeat the same [performances] I had in the first year with Conte.”
“That too, many times, perhaps, did not please [him]. And then I focused solely and exclusively on my health, where I managed to get back well for this season.”
Now, there is a new coach in town and he seems to be a fan of the curly haired one. Sarri’s approach is markedly different from Conte’s, but where they agree, at least thus far, is making David Luiz a centerpiece of the defence.
Tactically speaking, David Luiz is also relishing his new role.
“I like [Sarri’s] style. It’s a high-pressing game, with lots of ball retention. An offensive game, where tactically you must know what to do at all times of the match. So we work hard on that, and I like it a lot.
“I have had the opportunity to work with coaches who are a bit similar to him. Such as Jorge Jesus [at Benfica], who really likes this style of play. So once again I’m happy, regardless of 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 3-5-2, it’s always good to be ready and healthy to do what you love.”
Chelsea got off to a good start last weekend with the 3-0 win over Huddersfield, but Sarri-ball remains a work in progress.
Still, David Luiz hopes and believes that if the team continues to work hard, taking things one match at a time, good things will happen. The power of positive thinking — it probably won’t be enough for Sarri to join Mourinho, Ancelotti, and Conte as title-winners in their first season at Chelsea ... but you never know!
“I hope so, [that we win the Premier League in Sarri’s first season]. If it happened once, it is a sign that it is something possible. It depends on us, on our hard work and dedication every day.”
-David Luiz; source: ESPN Brasil
So say we all.