Rafa Benitez made quite a few changes to this Chelsea side as he welcomed back Oscar and Cesar Azpilicueta in the starting XI as Ramires was given a well deserved rest. Another interesting tactical change was the presence of David Luiz in the central midfield alongside John Obi Mikel.
Benitez had the options of Ramires and Frank Lampard to fill in the central midfield role in the absence of Oriol Romeu who got injured last week against Sunderland but decided to take a gamble by employing the Brazilian center-back there. This was Luiz's second appearance in the midfield after his 6 minute cameo against Nordsjaelland last week.
|David Luiz gamble paid off for Rafa|
Questions have often been raised on Luiz's defensive abilities ever since he joined the London club. Gary Neville once described him as a "Playstation character" who was being controlled by a 10- year old given that he often tends to make defensive errors.
Luiz is a classy ball player who has shown attacking instincts in his two years at Chelsea as he constantly bombsforward, dribbles past players or plays a long ball for the strikers. This ability was put to further test when Benitez handed Luiz a place in the midfield. With recent injuries and suspensions, Benitez has been short of options in the midfield role with Ramires and Lampard being the only one's eligible to play in the League or Cup for a couple of weeks.
David Luiz did not disappoint Benitez. With Mikel playing his usual role of the defensive midfielder, Luiz had the license to move forward and was free of his usual defensive duties.
The Brazilian was comfortable in his new role and he was the first to threaten Orozco by firing over from outside the box. Unlike Ramires or Mikel, Luiz was not afraid to move the ball across or try out long passes and it was his "pass of the game" that created an early chance for Eden Hazard who could not finish it. Although there were many occasions when Luiz gave the ball away easily but Chelsea can call themselves lucky that it was only Monterrey, who could not take full advantage of such moments.
It has been well documented that during his time at Liverpool, Fernando Torres used to thrive on defense splitting passes from Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard something Chelsea have lacked over the years. Since the introduction of Benitez, Oriol Romeu has often got a run-in the squad because of his ability to play those balls.
This was another key reason why Rafa employed Luiz as the central midfielder. Unlike Ramires or Mikel, Luiz has the ability to pass the ball and move forward. He has the ability to put in those clever through balls for the forwards and in Benitez's preferred system, it makes sense.
|Is Luiz best suited as a midfielder?|
Overall Luiz's audition in the central midfield role was a success and it didn't come as a surprise that after his substitution, Chelsea lost the attacking edge. Benitez said,"We knew Monterrey were good between the lines, they crowd that zone in midfield, so we needed some extra help there. Daviz Luiz played in midfield for this game but it could be an option for the future as well."
Chelsea over the years have not been short of midfield options. Carlo Ancelotti preferred a diamond formation where he had options in Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and Ramires to choose from. Andre Villas Boas played a 4-2-3-1 where he had options in Raul Meireles, Romeu, Essien, Lampard, Ramires and Mikel.
This luxury has not been provided to Rafa Benitez's Chelsea who along with lacking a center forward lack a central midfielder too. Raul Meireles left at the start of the season and both Essien and Josh McEachran were sent on-loan which has left Chelsea with just Lampard, Ramires and Mikel after Romeu's season ending injury. So it will be fair to say that Luiz's performance will give Benitez an added option in the midfield.
Although Luiz had a great game in the middle, a tougher test awaits him against Corinthians in the final. If Luiz does start against Corinthians in the midfield role, he will be up against their "rumoured" target Paulinho. If Luiz can get the better of his opposite number, Chelsea might save themselves on another expensive January window.
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