Two points from 15 since football restarted isn’t a good look for Aston Villa, but in Douglas Luiz, they may have found a long-term fix for the sitting midfielder problem.
A few players have played at the base of midfield, tasked with breaking up play, and just playing simple passes forward for Villa this season. Marvellous Nakamba, Conor Hourihane, John McGinn, Danny Drinkwater, and Douglas Luiz himself have all had periods of time in the holding role.
Sadly, they didn’t really convince for long enough to be trusted to play there on a consistent basis. Since football started again last month, however, Dean Smith has entrusted Luiz again to play in this position and he hasn’t disappointed.
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It appears that Luiz has changed his style of play massively over the last while. I’d imagine he’s been practising in training for hours upon hours on the art of keeping his passes simple, showing more awareness of what’s around him and just being a better teammate.
Smith recently mentioned how Luiz’s English skills have gotten much better recently and he’s able to communicate easier with teammates. Smith has shown a lot of trust and confidence in Luiz to play as the deepest of the midfielders.
This is because for a long time it looked like not only that Luiz would never have the defensive awareness to play there, but his main skillsets like dribbling and shooting wouldn’t be put to proper use if he played there either.
Luiz has now shown how mature and disciplined his game can be. Gone are the ambitious ‘Hollywood’ passes and they’ve been replaced with smarter simple passes so to ensure Villa don’t lose possession.
His forays forward are becoming less and less, he’s now pushing up at the right time, when the situation calls for it, preferring mostly to stay in position to guard against any counter-attack.
Unfortunately for Villa, the better Luiz plays, the more likely Man City become tempted to trigger the buy-back clause they inserted in his Villa contract. We’ll have to deal with that situation if and when it arises, for now though, let’s enjoy Douglas Luiz’s performances in a Villa shirt!
The Villians’ next test is another trick and tough ask. They play the only side unbeaten in the Premier League’s Project Restart, Man United. We’ll also get to see if Jack Grealish puts on a show to impress his potential buyers.