David Luiz is expected to leave Arsenal this summer, per Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail. The report comes just a few days after football.london reported that Luiz was considering remaining at Arsenal, presumably on another short-term extension. It would seem the Arsenal hierarchy had different plans: they declined to offer him a new deal in a meeting earlier today.
The Gunners acquired the Brazilian centerback two years ago from Chelsea for £8M, and he played this season on a one-year bumper deal with approximately £125K weekly wages. All told, he made 73 appearances for the Gunners pending the final two games of this season, scored four goals, and was sent off three times.
I’ll admit — I didn’t expect to have this level of mixed feelings about David Luiz leaving the Gunners. There have been plenty of times, like the red cards and other boneheaded mistakes, where I didn’t care if he played another game for Arsenal. But if I’m being honest, he’s probably been the best centerback at the club this season, and Mikel Arteta’s side have been at their best when he’s been in the lineup.
When David Luiz is on, he’s on. He’s an above average defender with pace, reads the game well, and can open up and change a game with his passing. Arsenal will miss that the most; his recent injuries have contributed to the Gunners attack faltering of late. And while it’s difficult to quantify soft factors like leadership, I think Arsenal will miss that from Luiz as well. Mikel Arteta has consistently spoken about Luiz’s presence in the locker room and example-setting for the younger players. Gabriel, in particular, takes a hit from Luiz leaving because while Gabriel is working on his English, it’s still not great. Luiz could communicate with him in Portuguese — it’s not a surprise that some of Gabriel’s best performances have come next to Luiz.
And these previous two paragraphs are David Luiz in a nutshell: usually pretty good, capable of great, occasionally maddeningly frustrating.
David Luiz was always going to be a stopgap at Arsenal. The Gunners hope they have their right-sided centerback of the future in William Saliba, although per David Ornstein the club is looking for reinforcements there this summer. The Gunners have Rob Holding as the likely opening day starter. In a perfect world, you’d have a better player, but Holding is an experienced Premier Leaguer who is good enough not to cost Arsenal. Dinos Mavropanos might also play a role, but he’s more likely to be sold to Germany than have a spot in North London. The big question is will any of those guys, Holding, Saliba, or a summer purchase be able to pass well enough to enable Mikel Arteta’s system. Right now, I think the answer is no, but that’s what training camp is for, right?
This is the right move for Arsenal and for David Luiz. The Gunners need to look to the future and figure out what they have in Saliba, Mavropanos, and further down the line. Luiz is still good enough to earn as much or more than he’s currently earning at Arsenal, but he wasn’t ever going to get that number in North London. It’s refreshing to conclude that a player’s tenure at Arsenal was a positive one that ended appropriately — Luiz was an inexpensive acquisition, helped the Gunners win a trophy, and leaves the club at the right time.