Shkodran Mustafi in disguise? Why David Luiz would be a major upgrade for Arsenal

first_imgShkodran Mustafi started 31 of Arsenal’s Premier League games last season (Picture: Getty)Arsenal, like Chelsea, employed a new manager with fresh ideas last summer as Emery sought to implement a style of play based around building moves from the back and initially Mustafi was a key part of that.A series of defensive blunders towards the end of the campaign resulted in Mustafi being shifted from the middle to right-back or even further onto the bench, but he still started 31 league games overall and like Luiz, was third in Arsenal’s minutes played chart.Team-based statsChelsea endured the odd humiliating result – those back-to-back 4-0 and 6-0 losses to Bournemouth and Manchester City were pretty spectacular – but overall, they were largely solid, conceding 39 league goals.That total was the joint-third best in the division, only behind the runaway leaders Manchester City and Liverpool and compares favourably to the 51 goals that Arsenal let in, which was higher than 13th-placed Newcastle United.It is difficult to judge an individual’s performance within the framework of a team-orientated statistic such as goals conceded, but clearly, Chelsea possessed a more cohesive, effective defensive unit than Arsenal, with Luiz playing his part in that.AdvertisementAdvertisementIndividual comparisonChelsea also enjoyed more possession on average than Arsenal did last season with 60% compared to 56% meaning Mustafi had slightly more defending to do than Luiz might have which skews certain individual statistics.For instance, playing in a team that defended more, Mustafi ranked ahead of Luiz for tackles won (62-41), interceptions made (58-35) and aerial duels won (123-82).In terms of tackles won both players succeeded with 0.87 of their attempts per game, while Mustafi made almost double the number of interceptions with 1.87 per game compared to Luiz’s 0.97.The contrast in their respective aerial duel totals is particularly interesting, though, with Luiz winning just 53% of his contested aerial duels – remarkably low for a defender – compared to Mustafi’s 66%. Shkodran Mustafi in disguise? Why David Luiz would be a major upgrade for Arsenal Advertisement Pictures: Getty/RexArsenal’s frantic search to sign a centre back during the dying embers of the transfer window has led them to an unlikely source: Chelsea’s David Luiz.With just over 24 hours remaining until the English transfer deadline passes, reports emanating from France have claimed that Luiz has refused to train at Chelsea in order to push through a move to Arsenal.The 32-year-old is reportedly concerned about the amount of regular football he will be given by Frank Lampard with Kurt Zouma set to feature prominently under the new Chelsea boss.Unai Emery, meanwhile, is desperate to reinforce his central defensive options following Laurent Koscielny’s move to Bordeaux and Luiz is a proven performer in the Premier League.ADVERTISEMENT David Luiz could form a balanced central defensive partnership with Sokratis Papastathopolous (Picture: Getty)Arsenal had been linked with the likes of Dayot Upamecano at RB Leipzig and Juventus’ Daniele Rugani, but with William Saliba arriving from Saint-Etienne next summer, securing the services of a wily old veteran in the short-term could be a savvy move.Luiz and Mustafi were both recruited by their respective clubs in 2016 and of the pair, the former has been far more consistent than the latter.More: Arsenal FCArsenal flop Denis Suarez delivers verdict on Thomas Partey and Lucas Torreira movesThomas Partey debut? Ian Wright picks his Arsenal starting XI vs Manchester CityArsene Wenger explains why Mikel Arteta is ‘lucky’ to be managing Arsenal Commentcenter_img Oliver Young-MylesWednesday 7 Aug 2019 6:57 pmShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link1.2kShares David Luiz trained separately from the rest of the Chelsea squad on Wednesday (Picture: Getty)Reaction to the news has understandably been mixed with some Arsenal fans suggesting that Luiz’s passing qualities would add a useful dimension to the team’s style of play.AdvertisementAdvertisementOthers, though, regard signing the bushy-haired Brazilian as an accident waiting to happen, particularly given the existing presence of error-prone Shkodran Mustafi in their backline.Luiz has certainly endured difficult defensive moments. Gary Neville once said he played as if controlled by a ten-year-old on a PlayStation, Luis Suarez nutmegged him twice to score in one game, and his performance in Brazil’s 7-1 shellacking to Germany will live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons.But despite all that, surely he’s a better option for Arsenal’s defence than the walking disaster that is Mustafi, right?David Luiz vs Shkodran MustafiLuiz has certainly had an eventful second spell back at Chelsea, performing brilliantly in their title success in 2016-17, losing his place under Antonio Conte the following season and then re-establishing himself under Maurizio Sarri.Following his travails under Conte, Luiz was unquestionably one of the main beneficiaries of so-called ‘Sarri-ball’, starting all but two of the club’s Premier League games and racking up the third-highest number of minutes last term. Advertisement David Luiz’s distribution was a key aspect of ‘Sarri-ball’ last season (Picture: Getty)If Emery is looking for a centre-half that can physically dominate opponents, Luiz doesn’t appear to fit the bill. Instead, his game has always been based around spraying passes across the pitch and progressing the ball out of defence.In that regard, Luiz would definitely offer an upgrade to Mustafi. He ranked top across any player in the division for through balls completed with 41, averaged 72 passes per game compared to 59 for Mustafi and enjoyed an 88% pass completion rate to 82%.ConclusionJudging by his form towards the end of last season and even into Arsenal’s warm-up matches for the upcoming campaign, there would be plenty of defenders who would offer an upgrade to Mustafi at this time.Luiz, despite his age and his propensity to commit the odd howler, would be a better option to the German in Arsenal’s defence, owing primarily to the quality of his distribution as well as his improved concentration levels since his return to English football in 2016.AdvertisementAlthough Arsenal would trade down in aerial terms by switching Luiz and Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopolous’ no-nonsense approach to the art of defending could dovetail quite nicely with the Brazilian’s more cultured style.last_img

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