David Luiz Silenced Haters Against Man City But Mikel Arteta Must Keep Playing to His Strengths

David Luiz put in a MOTM performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup | MATTHEW CHILDS/Getty Images

You'd have struggled to find a single person in the footballing stratosphere who had a good word to say about Arsenal's decision to tie David Luiz down for another 12 months. Coming off the back of a woeful display against none other than Manchester City, the circumstances all pointed towards the complete opposite: he had to go.

Which is why the man-of-the-match display he put in against the very same opponents in Friday's FA Cup semi-final was the perfect setting to remind everyone that Luiz isn't quite as useless as everyone has come to think...when played in the right position, at least.

With stats that are the complete antithesis of the ones he accrued on the opening day of the Premier League's resumption, the chalk and cheese nature of Luiz's mini-redemption rightly deserves all the praise he's received.

Luiz didn't lose a single aerial duel or miss a single tackle en route to his finest display in a Gunners shirt, while no other player produced more clearances in the game (11).

How so? Where on earth did this all come from and why have we now got chickens working overtime to keep up with the demand for eggs on faces?

It comes down to a cocktail of character and tactical tweaks.

David Luiz,Mikel Arteta
Arteta is doing the best he can with the players at his disposal | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Any Chelsea have will attest to the point that Luiz is far more suited in a back three. With two central defenders alongside him to provide extra protection he's able to plug the gaps in his armour.

We've all become accustomed to glaring errors from Arsenal defenders, none more so than the Brazilian. Constantly being reminded of how many penalties he's given away or how careless he can be in possession, those elements were never able to be exposed in Arteta's new look 3-4-3 setup.

Granted, that back three almost always reverted to a back five against the Citizens due to the sheer command of the ball they had, but it meant at any given time he was shielded either side by two or even three teammates. Furthermore, the superb work of Granit Xhaka in front provided another wall of protection, who was crucial to the Gunners in transition when the ball was overturned.

Arsenal were happy to allow City time on the ball in central and wide areas, pressing only in the channels, as the physical difference in both sides ensured any balls above waist height would be hacked clear without worry.

Adopting such a strategy is no good without the personnel to follow through, though. With that being the approach, it still required each player to be at their best and Luiz was. Key to his outstanding display was a tactical and mental focus that has been non-existent for much of the campaign.

His reading of the danger and organising of the backline was near flawless. Oftentimes he can be seen switching off in crucial moments, but he didn't put a foot wrong at Wembley and should have claimed an assist when he played Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang through one-on-one.

There has been a shift in his mentality since the previous City debacle, but the alteration in formation has allowed him to regain his confidence and assume less responsibility, a task he has struggled to shoulder.

Arteta will rightly be pleased with the dogged nature of his side's win on Friday. It's a setup he would rather steer clear from, but he is squeezing every ounce of ability he can out of a squad he's eyeing a significant overhaul of.

Luiz is not the answer to Arsenal's woes, but by being used in this manner, Arteta is making do with what is at his disposal while he bides - begs - his time for reinforcements. It's the only way at the moment for the club to continue pushing for a European berth and/or FA Cup glory.

After producing his best 90 minutes in what must be years, it will be easy to gloss over the plethora of mistakes the 33-year-old has made this season. Those can't be forgotten as, if they are, when another one comes around the witch-hunt will resume and the criticisms reinstated.

But for now it's a moment to savour for the defender and the Arsenal supporters, who've seen a defensive transformation unlike any other throughout their recent woes; one that has fans just as on board with the process as the players.

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