After what seemed like a lifetime, Rafael Benitez finally became the first Chelsea manager to try David Luiz in a defensive midfield position. He first started him in the middle against Monterrey in the Club World Cup. Since then, we have seen the Brazilian in that role a number of times, with mixed results.
Now, more than ever, Chelsea need David Luiz to step up and make the defensive midfield position his own.
In the midweek draw against Southampton, the Blues showed some worrying defending, allowing the Saints to come back from a two-goal deficit. David Luiz was playing in defense on Wednesday, and he was arguably Chelsea's best player. But he was the most effective when he was going forward, starting play from the back of the field.
This is why he is ideal for his role further up the field.
With Jon Obi Mikel out for the Africa Cup of Nations, and John Terry back from injury, the Blues' biggest vacancy has shifted to midfield. Although few sing the praises of Mikel, if the Southampton result taught us anything, it is that the Nigerian may be more important to this Chelsea setup than it first seemed.
This means that David Luiz needs to be the one to step up and take charge in the middle of the field. We already know that he has it in him to play in this role and produce results. Now it is time for Benitez to give him a regular spot there so that he can develop into a more consistent and natural midfielder.
Chelsea's title challenge is all but over, so Benitez would be wise to use those matches to create a stronger team—one that features David Luiz.