Geezers Need Excitement: The Return of David Luiz

If you Google the word ‘calm’ you are presented with 295,000,000 results. Surely, none of those results are for words written about David Luiz.

David Luiz and his mop of hair first appeared at Stamford Bridge in 2011. Five years, a World Cup disaster, and a Paris-detour later and people are still trying to figure out what exactly goes on in the brain residing below the center-back’s signature locks.

I was desperate to correlate the Street’s song featured in this post’s title with David Luiz’s style of play. Inasmuch as David Luiz even has a discernible style of play you can correlate things with. This was partly because ‘geezer’ was famously one of the first words David Luiz learned when he arrived in London, and partly because I’m always trying to find things to correlate the first two Streets’ albums with.

The first words Mike Skinner utters on the track are exactly what appear at the top of this post: ‘geezers need excitement.’ David Luiz plays football like he abhors order and structure. David Luiz plays football like excitement is as necessary to his personae as the utilization of colloquial English slang. These words fit David Luiz perfectly.

‘If their lives don’t provide them this, they incite violence,’ Skinner continues. Diego Costa may disagree, given the elbow that David Luiz flung at his face during Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain’s 2015 Champions League clash, but ‘violence’ seems a tad misplaced for the brand of mischief David Luiz generally engages in. And since David Luiz has no history of causing trouble at takeaway food establishments like Skinner’s geezers do in the song’s next verse, this is the end of this post’s early 2000’s UK garage scene references.

Let’s go back to the subject of excitement, though. The excitement generated when David Luiz finds himself anywhere near the ball (or shockingly far away from it) is what’s led to him becoming one of the most confounding players in recent memory. Because, you see, David Luiz doesn’t just generate excitement for supporters wearing the same color shirt as him. He does it for supporters wearing the colors of the opposition as well. He is a unique, equal opportunity excitement generator.

‘I have no opinion on David Luiz. He seems to exist just to perplex people trying to evaluate him.’ Those were the words of football analytics guru Ted Knutson upon Chelsea’s re-acquisition of David Luiz. If you watch just 10 seconds of a David Luiz highlight compilation on YouTube (as always with YouTube highlight compilations, you’d be wise to mute the audio), it’s easy to see why even the brightest people writing about the sport are left with a blank Word document and a blinking cursor when trying to analyze the Brazilian.

When David Luiz successfully wins a challenge (which, it bears mentioning, he is good at doing), quite frequently he is not content to simply play the ball up field to safety. This could be fine. Pep Guardiola has an underground lair where he keeps center-backs who ascribe to the hoof-the-ball-up-the-field strategy. But David Luiz is also quite frequently not content with zipping a pass to a nearby teammate to launch a counter attack like a normal, cultured modern center-back.

No, when David Luiz wins a challenge he has a habit of stampeding forward with the ball with little regard for the (somewhat important) fact that the space on the field he is supposed to be occupying has been left 30 yards behind him. This boldness (harsher writers may say ‘stupidity’) can sometimes actually be a positive for his team, however. When it works, it’s breathtaking.

Chelsea’s attack had become stagnant and predictable in Carlo Ancelotti’s second campaign with the club. David Luiz was brought over from Benfica in January of that season, and he surprisingly found the back of the net more often in that season’s second half than a certain striker who was acquired at the same time.

David Luiz’s goal to level a tense match against the season’s eventual title-winners, Manchester United, is still a thing of weird, brilliant beauty. The goal was the result of a hopeful cross from Michael Essien into United’s penalty area that ended up finding its way to David Luiz, who emphatically lashed a shot past a leg-locked Edwin Van der Sar. To recap, that’s a midfielder playing the ball forward to a defender, who then scissor-kicked the finish like a striker. There is nothing stagnant and predictable about that.

At the time of David Luiz’ transfer, Chelsea were stuck in Arsenal’s trademarked position of 4th in the league standings. David Luiz’ quirkiness was a jolt of unpredictability to a rote Chelsea side, and it helped the Blues’ launch a modest title challenge as the campaign’s second half went on. This was positive-excitement David Luiz. This is the version of David Luiz that gets people to attend matches wearing crazy wigs.

Of course, if David Luiz’s quirks yielded a 100 percent success rate, then there may actually be imitators of his singular, kinetic chaos. No greater example exists of the detriments to playing the sport like a teenager given the keys to his dad’s Ferrari (or a 10-year-old playing PlayStation) than the 7–1 drubbing Germany handed a Daivd Luiz-captained Brazil in the 2014 World Cup. For David Luiz, even failure must be spectacular.

Chelsea’s move for David Luiz on transfer deadline day warmed hearts while simultaneously raising eyebrows. Questions circulate as to how well David Luiz will fit into the plans Antonio Conte has laid out for Chelsea. Conte likes center-backs who are comfortable with the ball at their feet. If David Luiz is anything, he’s that. Conte also likes discipline from his defenders. That, well, that could be an issue. Whatever happens, David Luiz’s Chelsea return is sure to be interesting. It is sure to be exciting.