David Luiz’s brief spell at Arsenal could be coming to an end as the London giants are yet to extend his contract beyond the end of next month.
The Brazil international arrived at the Emirates as an £8 million Deadline Day signing from Chelsea last summer and was widely viewed as a replacement to Laurent Koscielny, who left the club for Bordeaux in the same transfer window.
The veteran centre-back’s deal with the Gunners was previously believed to be two years long but it was later discovered that both parties had only agreed to an initial 12-month stay, with the club having the option to extend the deal by an additional year when the contract expires on June 30.
However, Arsenal are yet to exercise the automatic extension, thereby increasing the likelihood of Luiz becoming a free agent with each passing day.
Where David Luiz stands at Arsenal
Despite being one of the most technically accomplished centre-backs in modern football, David Luiz continues to be a divisive figure in north London as fans are all too familiar with how quickly he could make Sunday-league errors that could cost the team the entire game.
This was, in fact, constantly highlighted by a section of fans when rumours of the Brazilian’s transfer to the club began to surface last year. Their fears were materialised almost immediately upon his arrival as he conceded a silly penalty during Liverpool’s 3-1 win over the Gunners in August last year and followed it up with another costly error that led to the equaliser in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw against Watford the next month.
After a series of unwanted records in the Premier League, the club sacked Unai Emery in November and replaced him with Mikel Arteta, who had left his assistant manager position at Manchester City to take up his first managerial job at his former club.
Luiz’s form significantly improved under the Spaniard as he was encouraged to employ his best qualities- passing and distribution- to build a more compact unit and to use his title-winning experience to create a more assured and confident defence.
The 33-year-old was named Man of the Match during Arteta’s first win as Arsenal manager on New Year’s Day as the side secured a 2-0 win over Manchester United. Before the coronavirus lockdown, he played an even bigger role in the development of the Gunners defence as he helped the team keep three clean sheets in four games.
The former Benfica man is also believed to have considerable influence in the dressing room and is considered a mentor to fellow Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli as well as an ally to the old and newly-signed defenders. However, there are murmurs among the present coaching staff that his influence is not always wielded in a positive way.
Should Arsenal keep the Brazilian at the Emirates?
David Luiz has emerged as one of Mikel Arteta’s most trusted lieutenants, having played 14 of his 15 matches in charge, and his technical abilities are indisputable. However, his propensity for reckless idiosyncrasies and costly mistakes are unbecoming of such an experienced defender and are a source of perennial fear among Arsenal supporters.
The Premier League giants are also acutely aware of the transfer problems that lie ahead due to the effects of the pandemic and they have imposed temporary salary reductions of 12.5% for the majority of their squad as a cost-cutting and sustainable measure.
Discarding Luiz’s services would certainly make room for new contract talks with players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka- who have been in tremendous form for the club this season- as it would remove a six-figure weekly payment from their books. It is also worth mentioning that at 33, the defender is nearing the end of his illustrious career but is still one of the club’s highest earners on a reported £125,000 per week.
Furthermore, Arsenal have a series of other ageing defenders in their squad and will soon have to start building a long-term unit. The English giants could pursue this ambition as they are expecting William Saliba to arrive from St Etienne after June 30 and have already signed 26-year-old Pablo Mari from Flamengo on a loan deal with an option to buy. They will also soon regain the services of the highly-rated Kieran Tierney, who is likely to recover from his injury in time for the next season.
Having said that, reconstructing an entire defensive line would be incredibly difficult in the present climate and the club would have to tread lightly if they want to consider offloading an experienced player like Luiz at a time like this. The Brazilian is committed to a title-winning cause and is the most decorated player in the squad, so Arteta might be a little apprehensive about letting him go.
What will Arsenal do?
Arsenal are understood to be aiming for a short-term contract extension that will keep Luiz at the club until the end of the delayed season. Both parties would, however, have to come to an agreement soon as all Premier League clubs only have until June 23 to offer temporary extensions to players who are in the final year of their contracts. These deals can only be made when a club wants the player to stay at least until the end of the present campaign as the fixture dates are likely to go over June 30.
The league hierarchy confirmed the date after questions were raised about the uncertainty surrounding the future of soon-to-be out-of-contract players amid the coronavirus pandemic.