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David Luiz v pundits: Why they'll never give Chelsea favourite fair break

COMMENT: Seriously. Was he that bad, Souey? What about it Carra? Couldn't you find anything positive about his return?

It can befall any of us. We get so wrapped up in an issue. Invest so much emotion and time into a personality. That we won't back down. We can't. And you just wonder for the likes of Graeme Souness, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville if this is what they're struggling with when it comes to David Luiz.

Yeah, Liverpool outplayed Chelsea a week ago. They were worthy winners. But Luiz wasn't the worst performer on the pitch. Not by any stretch. Yet, the way the ex-players brigade slaughtered him afterwards, it was like we were talking about a pub player. It made no sense. Were our lying eyes deceiving us? Or was it the egos of those riding the sofa that just refused to acknowledge Luiz had actually been impressive on his second debut?

His passing was clean. His tackling robust. His heading decisive - at both ends of the pitch. And he spilled claret for the club. In his first game back! If this was anyother player. At least one with no previous in regards to the chatterers in charge, the week would be dominated by news of his stellar, five-star debut.

Instead, the praise has been faint. Damning. And the best any of this lot can muster is that Luiz will be a stop-gap until John Terry is fit. He's not an Antonio Conte player, they claim. In the Italian's first-choice XI, he won't warrant a mention.

But there's more to Luiz's game than simply what he brings at centre-half. And this is what is attractive to Conte. He likes players with "personality". Loud, positive characters, who can keep the locker room united. It's why, Tribalfootball.com was informed, the manager worked so hard to prise Radja Nainggolan away from Roma over the summer. He rates the player, no doubt. But it was Nainggolan's upbeat personality he wanted in the Blues locker room. A locker room that was too quiet, almost broken after last season's dismal campaign. Luiz's presence will go some way to repairing that.

Let's forget the personalities for a moment. Last Friday, at Stamford Bridge, Luiz was excellent in a losing team. Pat Nevin, the former Chelsea star, dubbed him best on the pitch (and was mocked by some for it). And the Scot was near enough right.

But what we can be certain of, is the noise Luiz generated helped several of his teammates duck similar scrutiny. Eden Hazard was quiet. Joel Matip had Diego Costa's measure for much of the evening. And things just aren't quite falling for N'Golo Kante. Paul Pogba isn't the only French midfielder trying too hard to impress his new fans.

Leicester City won the league last season with a back four and Kante as their lone, ball-winning midfielder. The plan was simple: win it and give to Danny. That was it. The range of passing in Danny Drinkwater's locker would do the rest.

Conte's asking Kante (try saying that three times fast!) to do things which aren't in his game. He's a give and go player. He's not someone who can spray a ball 50 metres to feet. It's just not his strength. But Conte appears to want the Frenchman to be his quarterback. Chelsea's version of Andrea Pirlo. It just isn't going to work. And this was clear against Liverpool.

Drinkwater's name has popped up this week regarding a return to Manchester United. Though Claudio Ranieri says he'd be reluctant to lose him. Conte's never going to find another Pirlo. But it's clear he wants his midfield to kickoff attacks deep inside their own half. That's not Kante's game. Nor is it Nemanja Matic's. Conte has a long, long list of capable midfielders. But nothing in the Pirlo - or Drinkwater - mould. If Leicester do wobble in January, it'd be no surprise if Chelsea make sure Jose Mourinho doesn't get a free run at Drinkwater.

Then again, speaking of the Foxes, Conte could, after that performance in the Cup, give the keys to Cesc Fabregas.

It looked so, so easy for Conte. In those opening games, Chelsea were flying. But now it gets serious.

While this week has been dominated by United's three consecutive defeats, Chelsea, in that same period, managed just one point from six. And now face a trip to Arsenal. An Arsenal which have won their last three league games and hit four goals in the past two.

Now he's being tested. Hazard's inconsistency. Kante's role. Whether he can find room for Cesc. All problems Conte needs to solve going into an away derby. But one problem he doesn't have is David Luiz, no matter how much pundits try to convince us otherwise.


He was at it again this week. A week where the club were still getting over being outplayed by Liverpool. But there he was. Just great timing. Thibaut Courtois - again - talking about ambitions beyond Stamford Bridge.

The player who management chose over Petr Cech. The player who has had Christophe Lollichon, a nine-year coach at Chelsea, sidelined. And a player who was happy to talk about returning to Spain in the toughest week of Antonio Conte's short Premier League career.

The Real Madrid "fax" revelations - and Chelsea's mocking dismissal - made the headlines. But that was only half of it.

"I have a contract with Chelsea for three more seasons. In 2018 when I am in the last year of my contract we will have to evaluate if it is best for me to renew or leave," said the Belgian, not for the first time this year. "When I left Spain I already knew that one day I was going to go back."

Chelsea's no stepping stone. But it seems they're happy to be treated as one by some players. For all the somersaults management have performed. For all the accommodations they've made. They keep giving and Courtois keeps taking (the mick).

Is he really worth such one-sided loyalty?

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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