February 22, 2019

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For David Luiz and Chelsea, Everything’s Perfect. Until Suddenly It’s Not.

For David Luiz and Chelsea, Everything’s Perfect. Until Suddenly It’s Not.
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That extends to his managers. Sarri is the seventh manager he has worked with in his two spells at Chelsea. Not all have been entirely clear on quite what to do with him. Rafael Benítez felt he was best deployed as a central midfield player. José Mourinho sold him — in Luiz’s telling, because he was too “optimistic” — to Paris St.-Germain.

Antonio Conte brought him back to Chelsea, built his team around him, won the Premier League with him, then ostracized him. When Sarri arrived, he immediately restored Luiz to the team. He looks, once again, perfectly at home.

It is that ebb and flow that makes him such a perfect encapsulation of Chelsea’s recent history. As even Sarri pointed out last week, in the buildup to this game, it is not easy to know quite what to make of Chelsea over the last few years: a champion in 2015 and 2017; utterly mediocre in 2016 and 2018.

Like Luiz, the whole team seems to come and go: a high-functioning machine one minute, a sorry mess the next, with no obvious explanation for what instigates the change. It is an admirable squad, in the way that it seems to adapt so easily, so frequently, to a new manager’s methods, as it has with Sarri. But it is one that attracts, too, unavoidable scorn for its inability to retain that focus, that intensity.

For the moment, Chelsea is in the swell of its cycle, enjoying Sarri’s positive approach, his focus on enjoyment, on pleasure, on aesthetic. Luiz, given yet another a new lease on life, seems to be particularly savoring it. Previous experience suggests this will not last forever, for him or for his team. It makes sense then, for all concerned, to enjoy it while it does.

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