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David Luiz: Abramovich Gets It Right This Time

Roman Abramovich is anything but shy when it comes to the transfer market. After all, here’s a man who paid a combined 48.43 pounds for Didier Drogba and Michael Essien and most recently splashed 50 million pounds for the purchase of Fernando Torres from Liverpool. Drogba and Essien have been integral figures in Chelsea’s recent success, and despite his stuttering start, few will be betting against Torres to have a similar impact.

Abramovich’s money has not always been well spent, however. In May 2006, Chelsea bought Andriy Shevchenko from AC Milan for 30.8 million pounds. Soon later Shaun Wright-Phillips arrived from Manchester City for 21 million pounds. Both players failed to live up to their price tags and both players returned to their previous clubs with a sense of disappointment hanging over their heads, as well as that of the Chelsea owner. Who could blame him though, especially after great things had been promised, particularly for the Ukraine forward.

“I think Shevchenko is the type of player we would like. At the end of the day to improve what we have got, it has to be a great player and Shevchenko certainly comes into that class.” These were the words of Peter Kenyon, Chelsea’s Chief Executive.

Fast forward to January, 2011 and similar things were being promised for another mega signing by Abramovich.

“He is one of the great defensive prospects in world football,” Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay said. “I am sure he will prove a valuable addition to the Chelsea squad.”

Also adding to the hype was Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck, who claimed: “It is a delight to have completed this transfer for a fantastic young footballer who we have admired for some time and will hopefully serve us well for the rest of this season and going forward.”

This time, however, Chelsea appears like being spot on in their assessment of their latest acquisition: David Luiz Moreira Marinho.

The 23-year-old Brazilian international, purchased for 21 million pounds from Benfica, already looks like being a bargain buy for Chelsea. His performances for the reigning champions have already caught the eye and few players have managed to justify their price tag as quickly as Luiz has. In the short span of a month he has proven that not only can he handle the demands of the Premier League, but he can excel as a strong defender who is a big danger going forward. Simply ask Manchester United.

Luiz has demonstrated an admirable work rate and impressive ability and composure with the ball at his feet. It has quickly become apparent how much the former Benfica centre-back enjoys bringing the ball forward from the back and setting up attacks for his side. Luiz may have only scored four goals in 72 appearances for the Lisbon club, but he is more than willing to get forward and is fairly capable in front of goal, especially for a defender.

Judging by his three performances so far, Luiz may be exactly what Chelsea need to finally turn the corner. His debut consisted of a half-hour substitute cameo in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool and although he conceded a last minute penalty in his next match against Fulham, Luiz was still awarded with the Barclays Man of the Match award. His performance against Manchester United, which included the equalizing goal, was worthy of a second Man of the Match – although some will argue he was slightly fortunate not to be sent off for a second yellow card for a foul on Wayne Rooney.

Luiz’ performances certainly haven’t been flawless, but they have been more than enough to prove his quality. With the more games he plays, the more experience he’ll gain and learn how to cut out the mistakes in his game, such as an over eagerness to dive right in and a tendency to stick too close to his man. Overall, Chelsea has found themselves a top notch defender and a real difference maker, not just on the defensive end.

Written by: Jeff Harbert

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Chelsea Comeback Halts Manchester United

Another Chelsea and Manchester United match at Stamford Bridge, another big occasion between these two sides marred in controversy. Wayne Rooney fired United ahead midway through the first half, but a first Chelsea goal by David Luiz and a Frank Lampard penalty, courtesy of a questionable decision by referee Martin Atkinson, gave the home side a 2-1 win to propel Chelsea into fourth place ahead of Tottenham and leave United four points clear of Arsenal with an extra game played.

United will feel hard done by the result after an impressive first half display which saw Rooney score in his third successive league game. The Reds dominated much of the half’s proceedings and could have been 2-0 up had John Terry not gone unpunished for what appeared to be a hand ball in his own penalty box off a rasping shot by Nani.

United failed to build on their lead, however, and Chelsea started the second half determined to level proceedings. They did just that on 53 minutes when Luiz volleyed home at the far post. Buoyed by the equaliser, the home side continued to threaten and with 13 minutes remaining Stamford Bridge was in ecstasy. Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot after Chelsea substitute Yuri Zhirkov went down under a seemingly soft Chris Smalling challenge, leaving Lampard to step up and smash Chelsea into the lead from 12 yards out. United provided little response and from then on only one team looked like being a winner.

To make matters worse for United, Nemanja Vidic was sent off for a second yellow card in the dying minutes and will now miss United’s next big match against Liverpool on Sunday. His suspension, and particularly the loss, will come as a big blow for Sir Alex Ferguson – who was adamant Luiz should have also been sent to the showers for an off the ball foul on Rooney with the score still locked at 1-1.

Controversy aside, it was a thrilling match that involved plenty of end-to-end football. All too often big matches fail to live up to the hype but the latest crunch meeting between these two sides was a pulsating match and a spectacle that even the neutrals could appreciate. Despite the controversy, United only have themselves to blame for not building on their solid first half performance and instead allowing the reigning champions back into the game. Sir Alex Ferguson’s team still sit on top of the table and you can be assured that the fiery scot will be the last one to press the panic button. United played well for large portions of the match but will need to translate that over 90 minutes it they hope to keep Arsenal at bay. Chelsea, meanwhile, will be confident of building on this result and earning a top-four finish after leapfrogging Spurs in the standings.

Man of the Match: David Luiz

Big time stats:

  • Chelsea extended their unbeaten record against United at Stamford Bridge to nine games (6 wins, 3 draws).
  • Seven of Chelsea’s league goals this season have been scored by defenders (3rd highest in EPL)
  • Wayne Rooney became the first United player – barring Nani – to score from outside the box in 23 league games.
  • The loss snaps a 33 game streak in which Manchester United have won every time Rooney has scored.
  • Ryan Giggs equaled Bobby Chalrton’s record of 606 league appearances for Manchester United when he came on as a substitute in the second half. Ironically, Giggs surpassed Charlton’s record of overall appearances for Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League Final against Chelsea.
  • Sir Alex Ferguson fielded an unchanged side in consecutive games
  • Martin Atkinson has awarded the most penalties in the Premier League this season (11) and given out the most red cards (10)

Written by: Jeff Harbert

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