Tactical Analysis: Is David Luiz too wasteful in possession to start for Chelsea?

Chelsea's David Luiz celebrates his goal against Aston Villa

David Luiz has started five of Chelsea’s ten league games so far this season. The Brazilian defender has been rotating with Gary Cahill for the second centre-back role along side John Terry, with Jose Mourinho seemingly unsure of who is the best partner for Terry. But, with Luiz’s performance versus Newcastle, is he simply too wasteful to warrant a starting berth for Chelsea?

Statistical Analysis:

Passes per game Pass accuracy Long passes per game Long pass accuracy
David Luiz 58.4 85% 8 60%
John Terry 58.2 92% 4.1 75%
Gary Cahill 55.2 87% 3.2 59%

A brief glance at the above statistics shows that John Terry is Chelsea’s best ball playing defender with the highest pass ¬†accuracy and highest long ball accuracy. David Luiz plays the highest number of long balls per game but his accuracy is not very impressive at just 60%, suggesting he’d be better off keeping the ball and playing shorter passes, rather than spraying it long so often. Luiz’s average pass is at 26 metres, seven metres longer than Cahill’s average of 19 metres and six metres longer than Terry’s average of 20 metres.

Cahill’s passing accuracy is better, although his long ball accuracy is slightly worse than Luiz’s. What we can make of this is that he plays safer passes, rather than playing as many long raking balls. That being said, 83% of Cahill’s passes go forwards, whereas just 74% of Luiz’s are forward passes.

Is Luiz too wasteful?

David Luiz is a player who some regard as a ball playing centre-back. Luiz was however very wasteful against Newcastle, a game in which he completed just 84% of his passes.


We can see above how regularly Luiz squandered possession for his side. David Luiz was raking long balls up the pitch with little accuracy or precision. At times it appeared that he was playing these passes for the sake of it. One might argue that he was trying to force the play when Chelsea weren’t really going, but this doesn’t really excuse such a poor range of passing. Luiz is widely regarded as a ball playing defender but in truth this is to a degree a myth. Those who watch Match of the Day might witness the odd top class long pass, but fail to see the seven or eight long balls he put out of play, or played straight to an opponent.


The implications of this are that Luiz often tries to rush things too much and doesn’t allow Chelsea to continue a patient approach. Whilst there is a degree of value to having a player willing to up the tempo and try to find a team-mate, there is little evidence to suggest that Luiz is actually good enough at passing the ball, his long ball accuracy for example is simply not good enough, despite him attempting so many. This combined with the fact that Chelsea concede 0.4 goals with Gary Cahill in the side, compared to 1.2 with Luiz in the team perhaps shows that Chelsea should drop their divisive Brazilian defender.

2 comments for “Tactical Analysis: Is David Luiz too wasteful in possession to start for Chelsea?

  1. john
    November 4, 2013 at 21:00


  2. Excalibur
    November 4, 2013 at 22:03

    God bless you for this. Anyone with a clue about football knows Luiz is one of the most overrated players in the world. He is a shocking center-back.

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