After a brilliant title-winning campaign in his first Premier League season, Antonio Conte is struggling in his second term as Chelsea manager. The Blues currently find themselves in fourth place and are already nine points adrift of Manchester City at the top of the table. The Italian boss has already had a bust-up with Diego Costa and the Spanish striker has agreed a deal to move back to Atletico in January. This got the alarm bells ringing amongst Chelsea fans and now there has been another problem between Conte and one of his star players.
Doubting the manager’s tactics
On the back of the Chelsea’s 3-0 Champions League defeat to Roma, David Luiz allegedly questioned the tactics deployed by his manager. For his remarks, the 30-year-old was publicly embarrassed by being dropped for the 1-0 victory over Manchester United as the relationship between the pair looks to become even icier. However, it is important that Luiz isn’t frozen out of the squad completely, despite the decision being more than justified.
While Andreas Christensen looked extremely comfortable in his place against the presence of Romelu Lukaku, he is certainly no David Luiz and the Brazilian defender is one of the best in the world at what he does. His quality as a ball-playing centre-back is underrated and he orchestrates quite a few of Chelsea’s attacks – whether they come from a marauding run from defence or a Hollywood switch to one of the skilful wingers in the side.
In his first stint at the club, the Brazilian’s defending left a lot to be desired and to say it wasn’t his best attribute is an understatement. Luiz’s dribbling and passing were brilliant at the time, however, and it forced him into a central defensive midfield role, where he thrived. Later, under the watchful eye of Laurent Blanc at Paris Saint-Germain, he was transformed into a very capable defender.
Following his return to Chelsea, Luiz is arguably now Conte’s best option at centre-back and was absolutely vital in the Blues’ successful title campaign last term alongside Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta. The Brazilian defender is also reportedly attracting interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid; and, with how Chelsea’s season is going so far, to lose another key player would be disastrous.
The proposition of Real Madrid could be too much for Luiz to turn down, but if Conte plays his cards right at this stage, he could convince the star to stay at the West London club. It would put the Italian’s side in a sticky situation if he was to lose yet another big player, and it would leave a hole that would probably be much harder to fill than the void left by Diego Costa.
There aren’t many players in the Chelsea side who would be harder to replace than David Luiz (for obvious reasons, Thibaut Courtois is the main stand-out contender for that spot). The Brazilian international’s all-round abilities as a central defender have come on massively since he left the club in June 2014 and now, he is one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League. Although his actual defensive qualities may sometimes look shaky, he is an out-and-out leader and is better than most outfield players in the English top flight with the ball at his feet. To lose David Luiz would be a massive mistake and it is vital that Antonio Conte doesn’t give him the same treatment as Diego Costa.
Header image by Ben Tavener [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons