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Luiz 'sideshow' exposes deeper flaws at Chelsea

THOSE who have noted the similarity with Bob, the villainous clown of Simpsons fame, will be pleased that David Luiz, his doppelgänger, has developed into something of a sideshow.

Every week, Andre Villas-Boas must leap to the defence of a man widely perceived as not being able to defend himself. Every week, he must dismiss the notion the Brazilian would be better employed in midfield. Every week, he must explain the player's latest lapse in judgement, his latest foot out of place.

The strain is starting to tell: after defeat to Liverpool, the Portuguese snapped, his patience tested by Gary Neville's assertion that the 24-year-old was a centre-back as envisaged by a "10-year-old playing PlayStation".

Villas-Boas could barely conceal his disdain. "It is a stupid approach to an opinion," he snarled.

It is, though, a popular one. Luiz has come to symbolise the travails which are threatening to consume Villas-Boas's nascent Stamford Bridge reign. He is indecisive in possession, his positional play is poor, his charges upfield ill-considered.

He is a defender as the Portuguese likes them -- adventurous, buccaneering -- but not, on the back of three defeats in four games and some 12 points behind Manchester City, as he requires them.

That should not, perhaps, be a surprise, given that Luiz remains comparatively new to the position, by his own admission. He may have arrived in west London as the £24m defender capable of providing John Terry with a partner in whom he can have faith, but he is no grizzled campaigner.

"Everyone starts playing football wanting to be a forward," said the former Benfica defender. He is no different.

"These days children (in Brazil) want to be defenders too, (but) right up until I was 17, for the most part I played further forward. But when I was at Vitoria we decided that I would be a central defender for good. Now I am trying to improve in my work at Chelsea and always be chosen (to play there)."

Villas-Boas seems determined to grant him that. So, too, does Mano Menezes, the man handed the unenviable task of ensuring Brazil win the 2014 World Cup at home. Luiz's youth, his verve, his pace fit with Menezes's vision of a modern Selecao; the mistakes, redolent of a player still uncertain over his main role, rather less so.

"He is a fantastic player, and he will learn," said Lucas Leiva, his team-mate on the international stage but, on Sunday, partly responsible for exposing the flaws which have launched a thousand video-montage packages.

"He likes to go forward and is trying to adapt but if you are attacking, you have to think about what would happen if you lose the ball."

That appears to be Chelsea's overriding problem: the high line Villas-Boas prefers, Luiz's urge to surge ahead, combined with the wicker shield offered by Jon Obi Mikel and Terry's lack of pace, has left his team exposed in consecutive home defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool.