It was almost a very dismal transfer deadline day at Chelsea Football Club.
As the final day of the transfer window approached, new manager Antonio Conte had bought just two players: striker Michy Batshuayi from Marseille and defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante from Leicester City. While both of those guys added talent at key positions for Chelsea, there was a supreme lack of depth in the squad, especially at the defensive positions.
In fact, there was so little depth, that it was apparently holding up loan deals for young defenders like Matt Miazga and Kennedy. However, with one fell swoop everything changed for the Blues.
The first shoe to drop was Marco Alonso, the Fiorentina left back who signed with Chelsea in hopes of competing for trophies under Conte. While many Chelsea fans celebrated the move, it was hardly the signing of the day at Stamford Bridge.
David Luiz is back in a Chelsea uniform.
The often comical, big-haired Brazilian center back joined the Blues for just a shade under $50 million, after leaving for Paris Saint-Germain two years ago on what was, at the time, the largest transfer fee ever paid for a defender, $65 million.
While Luiz saw a lot of success in Paris, he had apparently grown discontent in the French capital, and thus his form dropped. With fellow Brazilian and PSG teammate hot on his tail for the center back role, Luiz was dropped from Brazil’s national team, and was likely to see his playing time diminished after a poor showing in PSG’s 3-1 loss to Monaco. Thus, there was no better time for a switch than now.
Additionally, Chelsea were in desperate need of center back help, with only three healthy center backs on the roster, including Miazga, who they wanted to loan. While Kurt Zouma recovers from his gruesome knee injury, John Terry, a 35-year old, was forced to start every single Chelsea game. Not even the most die-hard Chelsea fans thought they could continue starting Terry the entire season, making the Luiz move that much more appetizing.
Luiz may be inconsistent as an actual defender (that’s being generous), but as a true center half he is still among the best in the world. Few men can pick out a pass the way Luiz can from the back, he has elite free kick ability, and his penchant for getting forward, while sometimes nervy, can really put opposing defenses on their back heel.
Additionally, his foot skills and mobility for a center back offer the kind of versatility that Conte had so much success with during his tenure with Juventus. With Luiz in tow, Conte finally has the personnel to employ his patented 3-5-2 system, that utilizes three adept center backs to man the defense, and could further employ the treasure trove of wing talent Chelsea have on their roster. In fact, it seems that Luiz is the missing link to finally bring Conte’s tactical brilliance to the forefront of Chelsea’s play in the Premier League week in and week out.
No soccer fan will argue that Luiz is the world-class center back now that he was when he left Chelsea, but there’s no denying the immense amount of skill he brings to the Chelsea back line. More importantly, his diverse skill set and tactical versatility make him a huge asset to any team, but especially Antonio Conte’s athletically demanding system.
With Luiz back in a blue shirt, Chelsea may finally have the piece it needs to seriously challenge for the Premier League title. Time will tell if this was the right move, but on paper, it certainly seems like Chelsea are back to their winning ways.