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Why David Luiz deal is hard to defend

OPINION: When they offered the Brazilian defender an extension to his contract, Arsenal finally reached The Point Of No Return

02 July, 2020 — By Richard Osley

EVERY epic tale of woe has a few what-ifs.

There’s always some nagging question about whether the story would have been different if only this had happened, or our luck on one particular day had been better.

In the slow decline of Arsenal, from Invincibles to mid-table worriers, there have been a few: What if we had won the Champions League and that team had stayed together? What if the new stadium hadn’t changed things? What if van Persie had stayed? Or Fabregas? What if Santi Cazorla hadn’t been injured? What if we hadn’t signed Xhaka, Mustafi or Elneny, or hadn’t persevered for so long with Walcott? What if City and Chelsea had been banned from spending as much as they did? What if Arsene Wenger had been urged to retire a couple of years earlier and Arsenal had hired Jurgen Klopp?

Actually, that’s more than a few, but each disappointment or hard luck tale was not singularly responsible for where Arsenal find themselves now. Each, after all, came with a counter-argument: Oh, it’s OK, we won the FA Cup again, or at least we have Aubameyang.

But eventually you reach the PONR. The Point Of No Return. Once you reach the PONR, there is no quick reflex back to where you were. Once you pass the PONR, you could be stalking the wilderness for five, 10, 20, maybe 50 years – one of those teams that used to be important but nobody can remember why. No longer have you much control over what happens next. You may have thought Arsenal’s PONR was being beaten 8-2 by Manchester United that one time, or when Spurs finally finished above them in the league.

They were minor grazes. No, Arsenal finally reached the PONR last week when, in the face of all reasonable judgment, they offered David Luiz an extension to his contract.

This was the moment when a new last hope, one you didn’t even know you had, was shattered.

The original equation of the transfer remains baffling: Chelsea were paid around £8million by Arsenal for an arrangement which has made Arsenal infinitely more vulnerable in defence. The other older Chelsea defender, Gary Cahill, a better player if you have to shop for cast-offs, went to Crystal Palace for free.

Since then Luiz has given away several penalties, been sent off, and generally ruined as many weekends as possible while also telling Brazilian TV that he probably still loves the Chels.

At least it wouldn’t be for long, we’ve told ourselves, he’ll be gone as quickly as Lichtsteiner. It will be a distant memory: like when Mark Lawrenson played for Barnet or John Barnes’ stint at Charlton Athletic.

But no. He’s staying. Our PONR.

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