There’s probably hundreds of reasons for Aston Villa fans to be excited at the moment – but Douglas Luiz should be one reason at the forefront.
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Aston Villa fans were treated to a brief sighting of their new Brazilian midfield general – Douglas Luiz – at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium last weekend. Whilst he likely wasn’t quite up to scratch in terms of fitness and tactical nous, the youngster joined the ‘party’ when the shot glasses had been emptied and most of the revellers were ready to go home, if you pardon the metaphor.
Even though his nine minute appearance in a game that was on the way to being lost didn’t truly encapsulate what he can offer, Douglas Luiz still managed to make a positive impact during his time on the pitch – registering five accurate passes in five attempts, and winning 50 percent of the duels that he attempted.
It might take a while for the watchful eye of the fan base to get to grips with Douglas Luiz, what he is like as a player and what he can offer to a game – but once he has stamped his authority all across the Aston Villa side, he’s sure to be a fan favourite.
Two years ago, he was listed by some outlets as the seventh best teenager in world football. That’s just how exciting a player Aston Villa have on their hands here. His development might have been stunted via spells with Girona instead of Manchester City – but he’s still at an age where he has such improvement to make.
He’s experienced two relegations in his short time as a professional footballer – although the first was as he watched from the youth set-up at Vasco da Gama. This relegation gave him the opportunity to make one of the strongest impressions of the sides’ debutantes in the Brazilian Serie B, and at the age of 17 he contributed exponentially to their subsequent promotion back into the Serie A – eventually leading to his move to current Premier League Champions Manchester City.
His second relegation came just last season with Manchester City’s sister club, in the form of Girona – owned by Pere Guardiola, the brother of the esteemed City manager Pep Guardiola. It was only the club’s second season in the La Liga, and relegation was always a possibility for a club of Girona’s historical stature. Not that it should happen anyway, but the fault cannot be placed at the feet of any single player. It doesn’t reflect the quality that Douglas Luiz evidently holds.
There’s long been discussion at the Etihad Stadium in regards to who can replace Fernandinho’s complex puzzle piece as the ageing midfielder nears the end of his career, and Luiz was always the name most mentioned. Fernandinho often doesn’t receive the plaudits ahead of the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero, but his role combines technical ability, clever defending and passing, and of course, the physical attributes of his game. He’s a modern day metronome, in the same bracket as players like Andre Pirlo, Xabi Alonso and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Unfortunately for City, it was a transition that would never come due to the youngster’s work permit issues.
Douglas Luiz plays in a role often coined as a ‘regista’, an Italian term for a deep-lying playmaker that will be familiar to players of Football Manager. Often tasked with the most important areas of the game, Luiz can be expected to mark a centre-forward, but also provide excellent contribution to the attacking phase when the games requires it. These kind of players excel when they’re given space and time, something that the likes of Jack Grealish or John McGinn will be tasked to give him if he is to truly flourish.
At the 2019 Toulon Tournament, which traditionally features a number of national teams composed of Under-21 players and is considered the most prestigious of youth tournaments in world football, the Seleção (Brazilian Football Team) came away victors – and Douglas Luiz was named player of the tournament.
He made an instant and emphatic impression. Against Guatemala, he ensured that they couldn’t answer to his ability – and still left a mark on the game despite his opponents marking him somewhat of a ‘wanted man’. Every ball ran through him, with the Brazilian often dropping between his centre-backs and building out from the back. He perfectly amalgamated anticipation and positioning, strength and ability in his interceptions – and even tested the opposition goalkeeper from long-range on a number of occasions.
Across the tournament, the intrepid 21-year-old consistently registered a pass accuracy of above 90%, as well as winning almost 60% of all the duels he was involved in (which stood at an impressive 101 over four games).
He’ll likely need some time, especially with his solo training sessions for most of the summer, to adjust to Aston Villa. There will be mistakes and there will be times that fans just won’t understand what Luiz is bringing to the side, but mark our words, he’ll be a pivotal player in Aston Villa’s future – especially for the short term.