David Luiz, greatest human being and Sarri-ball ambassador put pen to paper on a new two-year extension with the club yesterday, breaking all the rules regarding contract lengths for players over 30 years of age. The reaction to all that may have been mixed, but there’s no denying the significance of his role to Chelsea’s fortunes (both good and bad, to be sure) this season.
Brought back in from the cold by Sarri from day one, David Luiz quickly put the misery of his second Conte season — a stark contrast with the excellence of the first Conte season — behind him as Chelsea went on an 18-match unbeaten run. But while results looked good on paper, there were cracks in the Sarri-ball facade, which as it turns out, wasn’t Sarri-ball at all. Winter had come and gone, destroying most ambitions, and yet, somehow, Chelsea have lucked into finishing top four (maybe even third!) and will contest the final of the Europa League as well for Europe’s second biggest trophy.
Could certainly be worse for Sarri’s first season, reflects Sarri’s No.1 fan.
“This season we had different periods. I remember the first three months you guys were so excited, ‘everybody understood so quickly Sarriball, everybody is playing well and we can see Chelsea with possession’. After that it was, ‘oh no, nobody knows anything and Chelsea is not good enough’. I think it’s normal, especially in the first season with a new coach.
“Nobody I think was going to bet that we will go to the last game of the Premier League already qualified. We can finish in the top three, not top four. We were 11 or 12 points behind Tottenham and now we are there.
“It’s not about how we start, it’s not about the beginning, it’s about the end.”
-David Luiz; source: Independent
Thanks to the Premier League’s historic dominance of the continental competitions this season, wherein all four finalists in the Champions and Europa Leagues will come from the same league, Chelsea will face rather familiar opposition at the end of the month in Baku. And Chelsea have only beaten Arsenal once in the last eight tries in all competitions.
But rivalry aside, there are plenty of personal connections between the two teams as well, including David Luiz facing his former head coach at PSG, Unai Emery. They did not work together for too long — in fact, it was Emery’s initial assessment of David Luiz in the summer of 2016 that prompted him to return to Chelsea on transfer deadline day a couple months later — but the defender has no doubt Emery will want to win despite having already done so three times in a row with Sevilla: 2014, 2015, 2016.
“The pressure will be on both sides. This is a big European title, everyone wants to be there. It is going to be a difficult game. They have a great team and a great coach. [Emery] knows how to win this competition. I worked with him a bit in Paris [at Paris Saint-Germain] and I know how passionate he is. He knows how to play these kind of games.
“It is up to us to prepare well.”
-David Luiz; source: London Evening Standard