Benitez wants Luiz to play midfield role
Rafael Benitez feels it is easier for David Luiz to play in central midfield than defence, as the Brazilian can more safely express his creative side with cover behind him. Yet Chelsea’s interim manager may need David Luiz as an option at the back over the festive period as John Terry’s recovery from knee trouble remains worryingly slow. After six weeks out, Terry has yet to return to full training and Benitez described his progress as “one step forward, one back”.
Benitez started David Luiz in midfield against Monterrey in the Club World Cup semi-final but he moved him back to centre-half, where supporters have grown accustomed to seeing him, for the final against Corinthians. He said the reason was because it would have been too physically demanding to ask the 25-year-old to play twice in four days in midfield. His fitness programmes have been geared to his use at the back and Benitez and his staff feared he “would not have the same fresh legs and it would be more difficult” for him in midfield against Corinthians.
Benitez persisted with David Luiz in central defence at Leeds United on Wednesday, but admitted in the build-up to tomorrow’s Premier League game at home to Aston Villa that he would prefer to harness his swashbuckling style in midfield.
“When we have more bodies and options at centre-back, it will be easier to use him in midfield,” Benitez said. “It depends on the game. He can do both [roles] really well. He understands the game. He is very competitive, and with a good mentality.
“I encourage him to try things. I would be really worried if players were not trying things in the final third. He’s a player who likes to play and wants to help and win. He likes to be seen, to take a risk where it’s necessary. I encourage him to try things . . . to do the easy things as well but there are times when he has to try things.”
The main criticism of David Luiz is that he can try things in risky areas and, when they do not work, he exposes his team. It was put to Benitez that it would be safer to use him in midfield. “It’s easier for him,” Benitez said. “At centre-back, one mistake everyone sees. In midfield, it’s easier. He likes to play and enjoys keeping the ball, passing the ball and going forward. It’s easier for him than centre-back. If he adjusts those things at centre-back, he will be even better.”
Terry’s last appearance was his goal-scoring contribution to the 1-1 home draw against Liverpool on November 11th and it was initially thought that he would miss only three weeks. But Benitez spoke of the knee being “complicated” and he reported that Terry continued to suffer inflammation after training. He said that he could “not predict when he will be available”.
“The problem is that he has inflammation,” Benitez said. “Today, he was fine in the warm-up but then he gets a problem. One step forward, one back. Hopefully, it will be easier in the next few weeks.”
Terry, who has 18 months to run on his contract, hopes to enter discussions about an extension in the summer but Frank Lampard has had to consider a move away, in the continued absence of an offer of fresh terms and with his current deal to expire in June. Queens Park Rangers have shown an interest but the midfielder is considered likely to sign for Los Angeles Galaxy on a free transfer at the end of the season.