David Luiz speaks about working well as part of the team, pressure at the top and sharing free-kick duties…
David Luiz’s manager Antonio Conte, in the past few days, recalled seeing a lot of doubtful reporting over the wisdom of David Luiz being brought back to Chelsea when he was re-signed last summer.
‘I read a lot of bad things about him, asking why is he coming back to Chelsea because in the past he performed bad, that he is not a defender, that we had spent a lot of money on him,’ Conte pointed out.
‘I think this was a great challenge for him but also for me, because when you have a player with great ability you can work to try to improve some situations and it is great, you can see for sure that David is a really strong defender. I like to repeat to him that it is very important to have the right concentration. His role is a crucial role for us and he has performed very well, but I want him to perform well for the rest of the season.
‘When we decided to buy him we were sure we were taking a really good player to work with and put as one of the best defenders in Europe,’ Conte added.
‘This position is perfect for him. He is strong physically and has good technique and can start our possession. He has the personality to do this, and also he has on his flanks two really good defenders.’
Though some words written about David Luiz before the season began may have been sceptical, they have generally turned to praise given the season he and the Chelsea team have had up to now, but asked about this, the player follows the lead of this manager in highlighting he is part of a functioning unit.
‘When the collective is going well, the individual part is good for everybody,’ David Luiz says. ‘The praise is nice to hear but I understand why, it is because the teamwork is going very well. That is why, it is easy to see the individual part.’
As Conte emphasised, nothing has been won yet but David Luiz returned to Chelsea with plenty of added experience of title run-ins having won back-to-back French league championships with PSG, and it is a situation he believes in taking in his elegant stride.
‘When you play for a big club the pressure is always there,’ he points out. ‘If you are at the top, you have pressure and if you are not at the top, you have pressure, so the pressure is always there and you have to know this when you sign for a big club. You take this in a natural way and continue to be ambitious to win the league. It is not easy to win the Premier League and we need to focus and keep our feet on the floor.
‘I am always excited to do my job and play football, and especially when you have the opportunity to play for a big club with amazing fans, so for me it is always exciting to be on the pitch and even more so if we can give them what they deserve.’
One of the contests today at Old Trafford could be billed as David Luiz versus his former PSG team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but this is a thought our defender is quick to slap down.
‘It is Man United v Chelsea. As simple as that!
‘Zlatan is great player, a great personality, everybody was talking bad about him before he came here but he has showed everybody already he has quality. I had a great opportunity to play with him, it was great for me, I learned a lot with him and we won a lot of titles but now he plays for Man United and me for Chelsea, and for sure I try my best and he tries his best.’
Should any free-kicks be awarded in dangerous areas in this afternoon’s game, there is a good chance Zlatan would take them for the home side and David Luiz for the Blues, although that is by no means certain. Since he caught Liverpool off-guard to net one at Anfield in January, David Luiz’s team-mates Willian, with another surprise effort, and most recently Marcos Alonso have weighed in.
‘That shows the free-kick potential of the team. Lots of players have qualities,’ he says.
‘At Liverpool I had the idea to see the referee when he whistled and to take a quick free-kick. Willian had the idea because he saw the space, that was a bit different, it was a different angle and position on the pitch and normally the players cross the ball, so he tried to surprise the goalkeeper in a different way. That was good, especially somewhere where it is so difficult to play like Stoke.
‘I said to Marcos in the Bournemouth game to take the ball because he has been taking free-kicks very well in this position. I said today you are going to score now and he did, and it was great for us because it was an important game and an important moment in the game.’
Taking to the pitch today at Old Trafford, it will be a slightly shorter-haired David Luiz than last weekend at Bournemouth when as at Burnley, he played with it tied up. In February, that was due to the rain, whereas it was sun that prompted it on the south coast. Afterwards he went home and cut it himself.
Although trimmed David Luiz free-kick taking remains a possibility this afternoon, what is less likely against Man United is this type of chipped finish he exhibited in training recently.
‘I learned that when I was striker before and it was for fun,’ he smiles. ‘That is more difficult in a match because I am not in this area of the pitch often. Maybe if it is 4-0 in a match it is something you can try, but not if it is 0-0!’