On Sunday, Chelsea won at St James’ Park for the first time since December 2011, and in the process, Maurizio Sarri matched Mourinho, Ancelotti, and Conte in winning his first three Premier League matches.
Central to Sarri’s efforts has been David Luiz, back in from the cold of the treatment room and Conte’s doghouse (or both).
The veteran defender made his third consecutive start on Sunday, partnering Antonio Rudiger in what has become Sarri’s clearly preferred center back duo in this early season.
As usual, David’s performance split opinion — his ball-watching on Joselu’s equalizer matched his ball-watching on Aubameyang’s miss the weekend before, and yet as usual, he played a big part in build-up and Chelsea’s passing rotation — but all’s well that ends well, right?
“It’s always difficult to play against a line of five, and then a line of four, playing a low block. We were trying to move the ball as quickly as possible and trying to find some gaps to score but we dominated the game and we deserved to win.
“It wasn’t easy, especially in the first half. In the second half we started to create more chances because they became a bit tired and spaces started to open for us so that was good.
“They were trying to kick the ball long, win the second balls and create superiority in the box. It was a typical Premier League game. We went 1-0 up and then they scored to make it 1-1 but we were mature enough to be calm and try to score another goal, which is what we did, so that’s good.
“We played another great game, it’s always difficult to get points at Newcastle but we controlled the game.”
Few expected David Luiz to be this important under the new regime, but so far, he’s keeping both Andreas Christensen and Gary Cahill nailed firmly to the bench.
As all any player wants to do is play (and win), it’s making David Luiz quite happy to be doing both.
“It’s always great to play football, especially after I was out for six or seven months. I’m enjoying it a lot, we have a great philosophy, a great manager and an amazing spirit in the team so it’s great to be playing.
“We are trying to get points at the beginning because as everybody knows it’s a new system and a new philosophy so we are trying to do our best.
“It’s not easy to win points in the Premier League so if we can get them now, at the beginning of the season, when we are adapted to the style it’s going to be even better for us.”
Prior to Sunday’s match, David Luiz also spoke with Sky Sports along similar lines, extolling the virtues of the new man in charge and confirming that he, like Willian, would’ve had to seriously reconsider his Chelsea future if Conte had stayed.
“I think I always have to feel fresh start because I am getting old! It is amazing to play football, of course last season was not the best for me inside the pitch, but also I learned a lot outside the pitch as a person, as a man. It is always great to be on the pitch.
“I learned a lot, sometimes you have to be patient, sometimes you have to take care of your body, sometimes you have to learn from outside to be good in the future. So for me it was great.
“I got time to take care of my body; many times I was on the pitch in pain, and I never refused to play one game. It was good to rest and be fresh.
“If the manager had stayed the same, of course, everybody knows maybe I had to move clubs. Now I am here and so happy.”
David’s anti-Conte feelings are/were perhaps not quite as petty and clear cut as Willian’s, but he’s certainly much happier now, both with the new coach and with his own renewed health. And as long as the team keeps winning, he might just keep his place in the starting lineup.
“The ambition has to be to win every single match, every single competition, this is Chelsea we can’t think in a different way but we also have to have humility to understand we’re at the beginning of a new philosophy, so we start day-by-day every single week.
“I think every coach comes with new stuff and can improve and help us and of course Sarri are already taught me many things I never saw before. It’s great to understand football – it never stops – since I started playing football I always learn from every coach, it’s great.
“He just gives to you [the public] five per cent of the idea, he’s not going to give you 100 per cent of the idea, one of the parts of the idea is to focus on the ball and different parts of the pitch, you have to understand the movement.”
-David Luiz; source: Sky Sports
Despite the growing pains, Chelsea continue to collect points in the league. That probably won’t last forever, so David Luiz and all the rest will have to understand it all and implement it properly on the pitch.
Will he continue to play a key role as we move deeper into the season and everybody comes up to speed? He just might.