Luiz lapses just a sideshow in Chelsea circus
Lucas leaps to defence of under-fire Brazilian but the fault lies with entire Chelsea back four
Those who have noted the similarity with Bob, the villainous clown of Simpsons fame, will be pleased that David Luiz, his doppelgänger, has developed into something of a sideshow.
Every week, Andre Villas-Boas must leap to the defence of a man widely perceived as not being able to defend himself. Every week, he must dismiss the notion the Brazilian would be better employed in midfield. Every week, he must explain the player's latest lapse in judgement, his latest foot out of place. The strain is starting to tell: after defeat to Liverpool, the Portuguese snapped, his patience tested by Gary Neville's assertion that the 24-year-old was a centre-back as envisaged by a "10-year-old playing PlayStation".
Villas-Boas could barely conceal his disdain. "It is a stupid approach to an opinion," he snarled. It is, though, a popular one. Luiz has come to symbolise the travails which are threatening to consume Villas-Boas's nascent Stamford Bridge reign. He is indecisive in possession, his positional play is poor, his charges upfield ill-considered. He is a defender as the Portuguese likes them – adventurous, buccaneering – but not, on the back of three defeats in four games and some 12 points behind Manchester City, as he requires them.
That should not, perhaps, be a surprise, given that Luiz remains comparatively new to the position, by his own admission. He may have arrived in west London as the £24m defender capable of providing John Terry, still pining for Ricardo Carvalho, with a partner in whom he can have faith, but here is no grizzled campaigner.
"Everyone starts playing football wanting to be a forward, wanting to score goals," said the former Benfica defender. He is no different. "These days children [in Brazil] want to be defenders too, [but] right up until I was 17, for the most part I played further forward. But when I was at Vitoria we decided that I would be a central defender for good. Now I am trying to improve in my work at Chelsea and always be chosen [to play there]."
Villas-Boas seems determined to grant him that. So, too, does Mano Menezes, the man handed the unenviable task of ensuring Brazil win the 2014 World Cup at home. Luiz's youth, his verve, his pace fit with Menezes's vision of a modern Selecao; the mistakes, redolent of a player still uncertain over his main role, rather less so.
"He is a fantastic player, and he will learn," said Lucas Leiva, his team-mate on the international stage but, on Sunday, partly responsible for exposing the flaws which have launched a thousand video-montage packages. "In Brazil, we know he has a lot of potential. He likes to go forward and is trying to adapt. In England, if you go forward and leave space behind, then it can be crucial for the other team. If you are attacking, then you have to think about what would happen if you lose the ball."
That appears to be Chelsea's overriding problem: the high line Villas-Boas prefers, Luiz's uncontrollable urge to surge ahead, combined with the wicker shield offered by Jon Obi Mikel and Terry's lack of pace, has left his team exposed in consecutive home defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool. To judge by Lucas's assessment, it is something which Chelsea's forthcoming opponents can hope to mirror; equally significantly, though, it is not just Luiz's fault, but a systematic failing.
"They were not that open in defence," said the midfielder. "They had the ball a lot at the back, and our strategy was to let the centre-backs have the ball and then press at the right moment. When you regain the ball close to or in the opposition's half, you always have a chance to break and you can find space."
And so Kenny Dalglish employed Luis Suarez and Craig Bellamy, his twin terriers, to hassle and to harry Terry, Luiz and, crucially for Maxi Rodriguez's opener, Mikel. Liverpool discovered an intensity which, according to Lucas, if maintained will help steer the club to Champions League qualification. Chelsea, once again, found the rotten heart of their defence under scrutiny. The calls will be for Luiz's head. That is the sideshow, though. The circus encompasses Chelsea's entire back line.
Six of the worst: boy from Brazil's gaffes
Fulham 0-0 Chelsea (14 Feb)
Despite an excellent display, he upends Clint Dempsey to concede a last-minute penalty.
Chelsea 2-1 Man Utd (1 March)
Another outstanding performance, albeit punctuated with rash defensive challenges. He equalises for Chelsea early in the second half but is lucky to remain on the pitch thereafter.
Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea (8 May)
Horribly out of position and lacking concentration, Luiz misses an attempted interception, allowing Javier Hernandez to put United ahead after only one minute. Deservedly subbed at half-time.
Chelsea 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen (13 Sept)
Typical Luiz performance, breaking the deadlock with a sumptuous curling effort before somehow remaining on the pitch despite a few reckless challenges
QPR 1-0 Chelsea (23 Oct)
Needless challenge on Heidar Helguson to give away a penalty as Chelsea are beaten.
Genk 1-1 Chelsea (1 Nov )
Misses a penalty and the chance to put Chelsea into the Champions League knockout stages.
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