On 25th July 2019, Aston Villa signed Douglas Luiz from Manchester City for a fee of £15m. The Brazilian had never featured in the Premier League for City because of work permit complications, this saw Luiz join Spanish team Girona on loan from 2017-2019.
Since joining Villa and successfully obtaining a work permit, Douglas has made the second highest Premier League appearances for the club (103) - just behind Tyrone Mings’ 105 PL appearances.
On his first start for Villa, 17 August 2019, Luiz started in a midfield 3 with Conor Hourihane and Jack Grealish. This would see Luiz take up a deeper role in the midfield - a common theme under Smith. Despite this, Douglas bagged his first goal in that game against Bournemouth, with a beautifully placed right footed effort into the top right corner - demonstrating his ability higher up the pitch.
The remainder of Luiz’s 2019/20 season showed inconsistencies yet certain moments of individual brilliance. His form after the Premier League lockdown caught the eye of most Villa fans, where he‘d adapted to his deeper role and provided an assured protection to the back line. Luiz was a key reason behind Villa’s survival in 2020 and fans were excited to see how he would shape up the following season.
The summer of 2020, Villa acquire the services of Matty Cash, Emiliano Martinez, Ollie Watkins, Bertrand Traore and also moved to sign Ross Barkley on loan from Chelsea. This saw Villa shape up with a midfield double pivot of Luiz and Mcginn. The role of the two would be to protect the defence but also to progress the ball into positions where Villa could form attacking combinations. A perfect example of this, is Villa’s 7-2 win vs Liverpool where it would be Luiz who would sit to protect the backline with Mcginn using his energy to get up and down the pitch.
The more the season went on, Luiz would be caught out in this defensive role - giving away cheap free kicks and penalties, much to the frustration of the Villa faithful. But still it seemed Dean Smith had no desire to play Luiz further up the pitch. The Brazilian was dropped for Nakamba in the final two games of the season - where Villa were victorious vs Spurs and Chelsea.
Despite interest from Roma in the summer of 2021, Luiz stayed on at Villa yet talks of a new contract were yet to progress. And the key talking point of last summer, the £100m sale of Jack Grealish to Manchester City. CEO, Christian Purslow remained assured that the 3 ‘replacements’ of Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Emi Buendia would make Villa a better propostion for the following season. Smith had not been known to use 2 strikers in the same XI before and there were question marks as to how he would fit all three players into the same team. As seen the previous season, Villa were in desperate need of a progressive enforcer in midfield, a ball winning defensive midfielder. The signing of a proper defensive midfielder would have enabled Luiz and Mcginn to operate and flourish together in more advanced positions, as the enforcer took up a deep lying midfield position to protect the backline.
The issue wasn’t addressed last summer and Smith was sacked in November on the back of 5 successive defeats. The sacking of Smith was the result of rushed recruitment to replace Grealish and Smith’s tactical incompetence to get the best out of his players.
On the 11th November 2021, Steven Gerrard is appointed manager of Aston Villa. There’s a new found hope at Villa Park as Gerrard wins 4 out of his first 6 games, only losing to Man City and Liverpool. Now the feature of Gerrard’s early tactics that I’d like to zoom in on was his use of Douglas Luiz. Take the Man City loss at home, an on-form Marvellous Nakamba was used to break up the play and Luiz was used alongside Mcginn in the no.8 position. Luiz was arguably Villa’s best player on the night - carrying the ball into attacking areas, using his flair to evade the likes of Rodri in midfield and using his accurate passing to link up with Emi Buendia in the attacking third. Nakamba then picked up a knee injury which saw him miss most of the remaining games and Luiz was put back into the defensive midfield position, where he’s been the victim of criticism for how he conducts himself in that role.
Since Nakamba has come back from injury Luiz has featured in a more advanced midfield position. For example, the 1-2 loss to Liverpool at home - where he scored 3 minutes into the game. Arriving into the box for a header, and scoring the rebound as Alisson could palm the ball into the Brazilian’s path. Coincidence? I think not.
My overall view on Luiz is as follows: Douglas is a no.8 in a midfield 3. He is by no means a holding midfielder. It’s just like the view most people have on Mcginn, he should be used higher up the pitch and when he is placed into a deeper role the majority of Villa fans are the first to comment on how he’s been used out of position. The exact same is happening to Luiz. Don‘t let favouritism block you from the truth.
To summarise, Luiz has been key player for this Villa team. He has the highest pass accuracy out of all our midfielders with 87% - highlighting his composure on the ball. The criticism that’s had to come his way has been unmerited considering he’s been played out of position for probably most of his stay at Villa. When played in front of a defensive midfielder, Luiz has flourished - yet Villa haven’t addressed that area in the window up until now and Luiz has inevitably been judged on his performances when on the pitch, no matter the role.
However, it’s exciting times ahead for AVFC, with the eye catching signings of Boubacar Kamara and Diego Carlos already wrapped up.
As for Luiz, it seems he may have played his last game for Villa. Contract talks haven’t progressed since January and Jose Mourinho’s Roma look to be ready to seal a deal this summer. Villa fans should be grateful if Luiz does leave, he’s been a big factor behind our PL establishment in recent years and has been used in the wrong position for a fair while.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece, it’s my first on the website.👊🏽