Of all the people who could welcome Antonio Conte from Chelsea this summer, David Luiz was probably at the top of the list. Even more now, after the replacement of Conte, Maurizio Sarri, he promised that the Brazilian has a "great future" at Stamford Bridge.
The 31-year-old midfielder started Chelsea's 3-0 win against Huddersfield on Saturday, in his third league appearance since October. Apparently that absence was due to knee and thigh injuries, but it was also clear that he and Conte were, say, not the best friends after a disagreement over last season's tactics.
David Luiz seems reinvigorated under Sarri and he has lavishly praised the approach of the new coach last week, stressing that he was "in love" with a style that "everyone loves to watch". If one was so careful, this could be interpreted as a blow to Conte: whatever his intention, it seems that the admiration of David Luiz is reciprocal.
"I really like his attitude when I work with him," said Sarri. "He's also a great player and a great defender David is very good at creating actions from our defense with the way he plays, David has a great future here, it will be very useful for us, but not just on the pitch, it's also important in the locker room ".
There were some doubts about how quickly the Chelsea defenders could adapt to a four-man back-line after playing three for most of Conte's term, and especially David Luiz. He excelled in the Conte system during the winning season of the 2016-17 title, with protection from the defenders on both sides.
Sarri is sure he can make the adjustment, though. "I do not agree that he can only play as one of the three central defenders, if you are a good defender you can play in a defensive line of three and you can also play in four.I do not know what happened in the past, but now he has good chances, we just have to go on like we're doing now with him. "
The collaboration of David Luiz with Antonio Rüdiger could prove to be the key, both learn to play in pairs rather than in a trio. "We have a good understanding and he is a quality player," said the German. "We helped each other in the game."
A further complication is the integration of Kepa Arrizabalaga, signed to replace Thibaut Courtois and launched directly into the team on Saturday. At one point during the match, David Luiz took the new goalkeeper aside to offer some advice, no doubt received with gratitude after a whirlwind week for the 23-year-old. "He did well," said Rüdiger from Kepa. "He tried to talk as much as possible, when we needed to help him, we helped him, we all know the quality of Thibaut, but Thibaut is no longer a Chelsea player."
Last week, Sarri said it could take two or three months for his team to play as they want. There were glimpses of his vision against Huddersfield, but it is clear that there is still a lot of work to do. "We had some problems in the first half with pressure against their three defenders," said Sarri. "We have to improve in moving the ball faster, but we did not do it in the first half. [when] there was more space and time. "
The good news for Sarri is that in the coming weeks he will have a little time to train his players. "We are lucky now because we can work with just one game per week for three or four weeks, we have to improve this month, so it could be difficult with the three games in a week and I hope to improve the team this month."