Arsenal FC

David Luiz is Arsenal's best centre-back - the Liverpool defeat proved it

By Harry Symeou
Apr 5, 2021, 11:30 AM GMT+1
Arsenal defender David Luiz underwent knee surgery on Sunday
Arsenal defender David Luiz underwent knee surgery on Sunday | Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images
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Arsenal suffered their 12th Premier League defeat of the season on Saturday night at the hands of the reigning champions Liverpool, prompting yet more questions about Mikel Arteta's suitability for the managerial hot seat at the Emirates Stadium.

It's a debate that rears its ugly head every time the north London club fail to take three points, and the often over-reactionary response is the consequence of a lack of perspective being applied; Jurgen Klopp's side finished 43 points ahead of Arsenal last season, so it's hard to see why the result has come as such a shock to some.

While the performance from the hosts was disappointing, it is important to note the Gunners were without four key players; David Luiz was ruled out with a knee problem, Granit Xhaka was missing through illness and both Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe were deemed unfit to take part.

Since what proved to be a painful evening for the Gunners faithful, the club has confirmed Luiz underwent minor surgery on his right knee and 'will be available for selection in the upcoming weeks' - sounds ominous.

The fact that Arsenal aren't anywhere near as good as Liverpool or that they're still incapable of performing consistently should come as no surprise - after all, they're the tenth best team in the division at present.

The absence of Luiz and the performance of Rob Holding - the man tasked with replacing him - served as a reminder of the fact the 33-year-old, even in the twilight of his career, is Arsenal's best centre-back.

Gabriel was also impacted by his experienced compatriot's absence - without his leadership, the defensive line sank way too deep and struggled to progress the ball accurately when faced with Liverpool's aggressive press.

The former Chelsea defender has divided opinion for years, just like Xhaka. However, after Saturday's display, even his harshest critics would have to admit he was sorely missed. Perhaps now people will understand why Arteta has put his faith in him so frequently since taking the job.

At his ripe old age Luiz doesn't represent the long-term future of Arsenal, but right now he's the best they've got. Winning the Europa League still represents Arsenal's best chance of European football next season, and their only chance of silverware. With a crucial tie to come against Slavia Prague, the news of his injury comes as a major blow.

Holding is likely to continue to deputise but is he capable of marshalling the defence as effectively as Luiz at his best? Even if he was up to the task technically, which he isn't, the loss of the Brazilian means Arsenal are without one of the few natural leaders their squad possesses.

The heavy defeat at the weekend was not solely due to the team being without him but it highlights that Arteta can't rely on his 'fringe' players to step in and maintain the standards he demands.

The Gunners already faced a mammoth task to turn this limp season into a relative success, and doing so without the veteran centre-back will be all the more difficult.

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