Can Arsenal rely on the enigmatic Brazilian on Sunday?
It has been an intriguing few weeks on the personnel front for Arsenal. Youngsters such as Miguel Azeez and Folarin Balogun have made eye-catching debuts in the Europa League, Emile Smith Rowe and Ainsley Maitland-Niles continued to push for greater involvement in the first team set up, and we also welcomed back Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari following their prolonged absences through injury.
The return of old faces and the introduction of new ones, along with the increased competition for places, will provide a substantial boost for Mikel Arteta in preparation for the busy Christmas schedule ahead. However, there may be even more cause for celebration this weekend, as Sunday’s team-sheet looks potentially set to feature the return of another familiar name: David Luiz.
Many questioned Arteta’s decision to offer the former Chelsea man a new one-year deal in July, especially considering his costly mistakes against Man City, the Blues and Liverpool last season. However, Luiz repaid that faith in spades with his subsequent performances in the FA Cup, and he has continued to be a key member of the team this season.
While Arsenal’s dependence on such an unreliable character may seem concerning, love him or hate him, there is no denying that Luiz adds an extra, crucial dimension to our attacking play.
If in need of reassurance regarding his value to the side, look no further than our disappointing defeat to Leicester City in October. While the game will be remembered by Arsenal fans for our toothless second half display, there was significant encouragement to be taken from the opening 45 minutes.
By half-time that night, the Gunners had registered 11 shots with three on target, and we would have had a commanding lead at the break were not for some poor finishing (and dodgy decisions). Inroads were made time and time again into the final third and Luiz was at the heart of it all, constantly picking his head up and splitting the Foxes’ defence with his trademark progressive passing.
With Arteta’s insistence to instigate attacks from the back, it is not surprising that our dreadful form of late has coincided with Luiz’s recent spell on the sidelines. The Brazilian was substituted just after half-time in the Leicester game and has only played 45 minutes of league football since.
In the meantime, Arsenal have managed just one win in the competition, scoring two goals and only one from open play. While we will likely never look to Luiz to solve our defensive deficiencies, we must not underestimate the pivotal role he has in our creative play.
Sunday’s clash with Burnley will be the first league game with fans back at the Emirates, and the small home crowd in attendance will be desperate to see a response following our defeat in the North London Derby last week.
As a result, the team should be more determined than ever to put a smile back on our faces and put an end to our winless run. Having recovered from his unfortunate head collision with Raul Jimenez a fortnight ago, the stage is set for our experienced centre-back to step up to the occasion and help us secure a massive three points against the Clarets.