What is a professional footballer?
They can be heroes, they can be villains. They are symbols of our tribe (or of some enemy tribe). They are cyphers into whom we pour our hopes and dreams, but also our fears and frustrations.
Sometimes we forget they are people, just like us but with better foot-eye co-ordination.
I was reminded of this when watching David Luiz’s interview with BT Sport after his man of the match performance against Manchester City on Saturday night.
During the conversation, with Luiz still flushed from his recent efforts, he gave the usual professional footballer answers, praising his team mates, referring to “giving one hundred per cent” and so on.
He was also honest about the gulf between Arsenal and the likes of Man City (“the other team is miles away in front of us, but we were humble…”).
But then the interviewer got to the question he really wanted to ask. Just a few weeks earlier Arsenal had succumbed to a humiliating defeat against Manchester City in an empty Etihad Stadium, and Luiz had been the chief villain.
The Brazilian had gifted City a goal just before half time and then, early in the second half, gave away a penalty and got sent off in the process.
The interviewer obviously wanted to raise these past indiscretions but didn’t quite have the courage to just come out with it. Instead he beat around the bush:
“And what a different story to the Premier League game against Manchester City just after the restart,” he mumbled, “when there was a lot of criticism of Arsenal’s spirit, a lot of criticism of the defending…”
Luiz knew what was being asked and put the interviewer out of his misery by interrupting.
“A lot of criticism on me, no? You can say that.”
He went on to say that he had taken the blame for those mistakes and had been working hard every day.
It reminded me that the players we support and idolise and curse and criticise are not oblivious to what is being said about them.
While blogs like this one (and the many others in the Arsenal blogosphere) devote whole columns to how crap certain players are (I have done it myself), with plenty of pile-on in the comments, it’s easy to imagine that none of this negative vibe reaches the players. But it clearly does.
Luiz knew what we are all saying about him after the Man City league game. He already knew what plenty of pundits – amateur and professional – have long said about him (that he’s unreliable and accident-prone).
But his interview on Saturday was a reminder that he is trying. Trying to be the best he can. Trying to do his job. He talked about surviving.
It made me warm to him a little more, despite the frustration he can inspire.
None of this is to say that we cannot or should not criticise players. It’s our right as supporters and, often, it serves as a form of catharsis for us after a bad result. Angry people always want someone to blame and footy fans are no different.
But when we’re firing our barbs, let’s always keep a little space in our hearts to remember the humanity of our targets.
David Luiz will always be David Luiz. He will have mad moments in defence in the future, but hopefully he will have more games like Saturday’s, when his leadership, experience, bravery and skill helped propel us to another FA Cup Final.
He has been a zero and a chump for Arsenal at times this year. But the story of this season is not over and, who knows, maybe he’ll end it a hero and a champ.
Nice post Rocky. Well respect where it is due Luiz had a fantastic game against Man City. Both he & Tierney were outstanding in a great team performance.
He’s not my favourite player that’s sure, but it’s time for redemption against Chelsea following the humiliation in Baku last May.
Watched the game in the Finsbury Park area. The local pubs were doing a brisk trade and showed the game live on their screens. Social-distancing protocols were being followed by the beer houses, which seemed well organised and the rules were well observed by the patrons.
I expect the pubs will be busy again around Highbury on 1st August. I hope to be watching and celebrating in the area.
Luiz is a player who when he is good he is very good, but he can also be really bad. He’s not unique, Jonjo Shelvey is another one. Its whether the manager can live with a level of inconsistency.
A super Post, Rocky,
It is true that we as fans have a tendency to idolise or excoriate members of our team depending on how they have played, either in a losing team environment, or just as individuals, regardless of the result.
In day to day life, we can take to someone, regardless of their perceived faults, or dislike them just …… because.
Football is no different, and the old saw ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’, rather explains why some may think a player has played a blinder, while others, perhaps perversely, may think he has had a stinker.
Your Post explains, in a neatly nuanced way, that criticism of an individual is likely to be counter-productive, because as human beings they are going to feel hard done by, and that can reduce their effectiveness to the team if in trying their best they are still pilloried.
I did write a post-match comment and ratings in the hiatus after the game, that I hoped explained why players I have reservation about, were given good scores despite those reservations, as Xhaka, Mustafi and Luiz gave their all in holding off the continuous marauding attack of City, allowing our own forwards to take the opportunity to make the most of the City defence mistakes.
I think that’s called ‘giving credit where it is due’. 🤪
David Luiz is such a typically brilliant but flawed Arsenal player the only confusing thing for me is how he ever played for Chelsea?
Did your post match comment and ratings ever get posted? I’d like to see them.
Funny but true.
For the life of me I have been trying to work out who that picture up there looks like and it finally dawned on me — its Grayson Perry with an Arsenal shirt on……..
It was the lack of make up that threw me…….
You’re sounding potty now.
Are you cracked, me old China?
Have a look at a picture of Grayson Perry without makeup I would post one but I have never worked out how Chas used to do those kind of things.
I get it LB, hence my weak attempts at jokes related to pottery…
Thanks Rocky, and (as I seem to be saying a lot recently) thanks for all your other recent posts.
Even after the last City game when he got sent off I was still in the camp that it was a shrewd move to keep Luiz next year. We know there are the odd calamities but also many top performances as well.
More than that he brings great experience and he isn’t one of those senior pro’s that keeps it to himself. He is happy to share his experience with our younger players who really seem to look up to him and respect him. He looks and behaves like a leader.
A top squad, that is aiming to challenge, needs all sorts of attributes over and above a world class 1st 11. I think many people tend to take the line that every player in the 23 man squad has to be top notch world class in their prime types, but this is just not realistic.
Luiz has an important role in this squad over the next year.
It was just a comment after the Pool match. I think there was a delay in a ‘New Post” post match summary – so I tried to support you. 🙄
I mentioned it only because I gave ratings dependent on performance in the game, and not any prejudice I may have had. 😁
I do not think anyone mentioned it at the time — which was OK. 😁🥺 [Maybe Oz??]
Here it is.
“A quick match appraisal:
There was a certain unease for some fans in the team selection, although it is obvious that perhaps the FA Cup semi-final had something to do with that.
Anyway starting at the end – the result was very welcome, not necessarily the 3 points (much tho that was encouraging) but the graft we put into achieving the win was very satisfying.
There is a bit of a naughty side of my persona, which as a footie fan is probably true of all of us to some degree, and that is the relief and delight that the Invincibles’ record was not broken, and the record for the highest number of points in Premier League history was staying at City.
I don’t have any interest in City really, but I hate other clubs doing too well and having too many medals, trophies or bragging rights.
To be candid, I am not sure how we managed to beat them.
Well, I do really, we were given a couple of gifts that needed Laca and Nelson to have their wits about them and find the net — but, without them I doubt we would have scored.
It simply cannot be denied, Pool did look streets ahead of us with speed, confidence and quality in every part of their team — and their points tally compared to ours simply confirms that. The stats show they had 80% possession, and that usually signals the demise of the team with 20%.
So back to us — we put in a tremendously gutsy effort and terrific determination not to be made to look clueless, especially when Pool went up another gear or two in the second half, when to be candid we sometimes looked at 6s and 7s in defence with ball frequently deflected here, there and everywhere.
How did we keep them at bay?
Our forwards did not do much attacking throughout the game, apart from saying thank you for the priceless goal gifts from two really good players, Van Dyke and Allison, so let’s look instead at the troublesome defence.
Emile Martinez was again brave and resolute in coming out and catching the ball, rather than punching it out to Pool’s marauding midfield. And the icing on the cake was the finger tip saves he made from Mané. 
Luiz had one of his better games, and got his noggin to the ball more than usual, and he stayed ‘at home’ rather than going wandering aimlessly into space where he does not have the pace to recover when the ball is lost. 
Holding has again showed that he is recovering match fitness and toughness, which Mané found. A good balance with Luiz. 
Soares gamely tried to stick to anyone who attacked in his area, and was pretty OK, but is he the right quality for us. 
Tierney is already a good player and will become a star when he gets more experience and his injury problems are laid to rest. 
AMN [6} -Torreira  – Ceb  – Xhaka  (Unusually sensible) –
Nelson  – Auba  – Pepe  – Laca  –
Willock  – Saka  –
And Kola – not on long enough to count – well he did not give away another stupid pass.” [Perhaps that deserved a ‘6’ ]
I had written something similar after the Semi-Final – but maybe not???? 😳 I must have been dreaming?? 😉
Great post Rock.
For me Luiz will always be a footballing enigma. Capable of brilliance but equally capable of terror. Which is what you do not want from a CB because terror can lead to catastrophe. But as a backup CB with experience he is good enough – after all…he’s done it all.
I’ve often wondered why he hasn’t played more as a DM given his passing skills. May be a gas tank issue. Not sure.
Can’t disagree with that Oz.
Let’s hope he’s got at least one more great game left in him for this season at least.
Good report Redders.
You’re Luiz comment strikes a chord with me. He seems better defending deep against committed attackers than in games where he has scope to ‘go wandering’.
Can’t believe I didn’t see it, doh.
Really which bounmoth got a result in there last game cause of all the side one to relegation I would like Watford and Brighton to go down but think Brighton safe now so hopefully we condemn Watford next Game day