Karen Carney column: David Luiz can help shape Arsenal’s future

Former Chelsea and England midfielder Karen Carney, who retired after helping the Lionesses reach the 2019 World Cup semi-finals, is writing columns for the BBC Sport website, working on Radio 5 Live and featuring on BBC TV this season.

David Luiz may not be the future of Arsenal but he can help shape it, and that’s why I think he was offered a new contract.

He was criticised for his performance against Manchester City in June – where he was sent off and gave away a penalty – but this squad is young and very inexperienced, and the fact there was such a long debate over who should be captain, shows there is a lack of leadership within the team.

I’m not saying Luiz, who is 33 now, is going to play every game, but he has experience and has been around success. He can have a positive impact within the dressing room and can help the younger players coming through.

When 18-year-old Bukayo Saka has been playing at left-back, I have noticed Luiz coaching him throughout the game and giving him confidence.

There have been quite a few players over the age of 32 who have been offered short-term contracts before – the likes of Leighton Baines at Everton and Olivier Giroud at Chelsea in June, Ashley Young at Manchester United in February 2019 and Per Mertesacker at Arsenal in January 2017.

They probably have more importance within the dressing room and play less, but you need those old heads.

Arsenal don’t have an array of centre-backs to choose from – I still think they need to bring in two more defenders – but adding another year on to Luiz’s contract is a smart move.

David Luiz’s overall stats for Arsenal in the Premier League
Appearances – 28 Tackles – 25 Successful passes – 1,273 Tackle success – 60%
Interceptions – 27 Touches – 1,788 Blocks – 29 Aerial success – 53.9%
Goals – 2 Goals conceded – 31 Clearances – 109 Errors leading to goals – 2
Assists – 1 Total passes – 1,568 Fouls conceded – 24 Clean sheets – 8

‘He went out of his way to find me when I was injured’

David Luiz was sent off after giving away a penalty in the defeat by Manchester City last month

Luiz’s leadership qualities will still be valuable for Arsenal.

When I was at Chelsea, he was always passionate about the club. He wanted the women’s team to do well and he was very motivational.

He went out of his way to find me when I was injured because he knew I was upset. He sat with me and checked in with me every now and again. He would say to me: ‘It’s just in the mind, you can get through it.’ Those little conversations are important.

That’s probably why he has been given another year. But Mikel Arteta needs to make sure he manages Luiz properly. You have to look after senior players. When they become disgruntled, that becomes a challenge.

Number of appearances by players aged 32 or over in the past 10 seasons among the Premier League’s ‘big six’ clubs
Manchester United – 436 Liverpool – 255
Chelsea – 364 Arsenal – 148
Manchester City – 352 Tottenham – 102

They need to have had a conversation about the plans for the future. As a senior player you can either react with fight or flight when you’re having these discussions.

You either accept the plan or want to play constantly and be disruptive, which will just be miserable for everybody.

Luiz would have been really disappointed with his performance against Manchester City but he has played since, helped keep clean sheets against Southampton, Norwich and Wolves, and that’s all he can do. He just needs to keep working hard and try to adapt.

Luiz needs to adapt his game now

Arsenal signed David Luiz from Chelsea for £8m in August 2019

Luiz was thrown in at the deep end when he came on as a substitute against City. He had to face the pace and power of that team – and after three months off, at his age, his legs probably weren’t where they needed to be and he isn’t as quick any more.

He had a torrid time but being a centre-back is one of the hardest positions because if you drop a yard or two in pace, you get punished. It’s very tricky.

In possession, Luiz has been pretty good for Arsenal. He’s picked up a few goals, got an assist and has created some big chances. He can play through the defence or over the top, and his distribution, when he is not put under pressure, is very good.

Percentage (%) of possession lost by central defenders in the Premier League this season – David Luiz ranks 19th
1) Jack Stephens – 1,266 touches, 26.2% possession lost 4) Ben Mee – 1,676 touches, 22.9% possession lost
2) Jack O’Connell – 1,794 touches, 24.3% possession lost 5) Kortney Hause – 1,022 touches, 22.7% possession lost
3) James Tarkowski – 1,603 touches, 23% possession lost ** 19) David Luiz – 1,788 touches, 14.3% possession lost

Every team that has signed him knows he plays flamboyant and high-risk football so he is prone to making mistakes. He has got away with it in the past because of his speed and having good players around him.

So now it’s about trying to adapt his game. He will know that.

From my own experience, it was harder as you got older. My mind knew exactly what I wanted to do but my body couldn’t do it. I wasn’t as quick and I couldn’t do the things I used to be able to do. I couldn’t twist or turn because I was stiffer.

I tried to learn how to make up for the loss of pace in other ways. I watched more footage so I could be a step ahead because I could see the patterns of play happening. I built better relationships with my team-mates so they knew what I needed from them and what I needed to give in return.

Ultimately, you have to work harder.

David Luiz’s stats when in possession for Arsenal in the Premier League during the 2019-20 season
Passes per match – 56 Cross accuracy – 75%
Successful passes – 1,273 Successful through balls – 12
Possession lost – 14.3% Accurate long balls – 141
Big chances created – 2 Assists – 1

Karen Carney was speaking to BBC Sport’s Emma Sanders.