Though he considers it an important part of his game, David Luiz’s ability to get forward for Chelsea does not always meet with approval. Yet the Brazilian centre-half’s creative play was a notable feature of his side’s defeat of Monterrey in Thursday’s FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012 semi-final.
What really caught the eye about his performance in Yokohama, however, was the fact that the former Benfica man was not stationed in his usual position at the centre of defence, but in midfield, a tactical switch that Blues coach Rafa Benitez may be tempted to repeat in Sunday’s final against Corinthians.
“Since he [Benitez] arrived he’s been talking about playing me there if the opportunity arose,” the Brazilian told FIFA.com. “He spoke to me in the team-talk and we decided to do it for that game. I was happy with the result, about getting through to a big final, and with my performance as well.”
All part of the plan
David Luiz’s display was greeted with both surprise and acclaim by the English media. The player deserved all the praise he got for his enterprising showing too, striding forward commandingly with the ball, hitting snappy passes and always looking to pick out unmarked team-mates.
“It was Rafa’s decision to make the change for this game,” he continued. “He wanted me to play in a more advanced position and I was delighted with my contribution to the team and with our overall performance too.”
He added: “I’ve been working in training every day on other aspects of my game so I can help out in different ways. They’re things we’ve been practising, and the coach has a gift for seeing when a player can make a positive contribution in a certain position.”
Though Thursday’s game was David Luiz’s first midfield outing for Chelsea, he is no stranger to the position, having played there for Benfica, a fact not unnoticed by Benitez. And it is not as if the Spaniard did not have other options to consider, with both Frank Lampard and Ramires available for selection, but starting the game on the bench.
“He played as a centre-half, left-back, right-back, midfielder and in a lot of positions when he was there [at Benfica],” said the former Liverpool boss. “I knew that Monterrey were quick and dangerous in midfield and I decided to put someone in there who could stop them.”
Quite apart from his distinctive, kinky hairstyle, what makes David Luiz stand out on the pitch is his pace, both on and off the ball. “He’s very good at winning the ball back and passing it to his team-mates,” continued Benitez. “We needed that energy in there, and David can do it all very well. He’s a good passer and he’s very willing too. He did a fine job.”
The Brazilian combined well in the role with his Nigerian defensive midfield partner John Obi Mikel, as he himself explained: “We’d never played together there before. We knew that communication would be very important, and we spoke to each other right from the start so we could get our positioning right.”
A special occasion
Though John Terry was missing through injury, offering plenty of cover behind the pair were the central-defensive duo of Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic, which allowed David Luiz to get forward on occasion and help Chelsea seal their place in the final.
Waiting for them there are the side he used to support as a boy. After spells with Vitoria in Brazil and Benfica before arriving in London, David Luiz said there will be no conflict of interest for him when he runs out to face Corinthians on Sunday: “It’s another final, and that’s always special for me, whoever we play.”
He is also a useful source of information for his team-mates: “Everyone tries to help. And when they’ve got some information to give they’ve got the freedom to come out and tell the team about it. We’ve been talking a lot this week about the importance that we attach to the [Club] World Cup in South America and especially in Brazil. I’ve always made it clear that it’s been a dream of mine to play in a [Club] World Cup and that I’d give anything to win it.”
Wherever he plays on Sunday, in defence or a more advanced position, David Luiz has his mind set on one thing only: getting his hands on the trophy.
“Getting up there in attack is not my main job,” he explained. “All I want to do is help the team, no matter what my position is. I love playing for Chelsea. I love playing. And I hope we can take the title.”