Talking Tactics

How Douglas Luiz epitomises Villa's strengths in top-four race

By Adrian Clarke 4 Nov 2023
Douglas Luiz Talking Tactics

Adrian Clarke highlights Brazilian's importance ahead of Sunday's trip to Nottingham Forest

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 11.

Player analysis: Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa)

There are a growing number of accomplished all-round central midfielders shining in the Premier League this season.

Rodri, Declan Rice, Enzo Fernandez, Yves Bissouma, Moises Caicedo, Joao Palhinha and Bruno Guimaraes all stand out for their wide range of qualities, with and without the ball.

And Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz is very much part of this impressive collective.

The Brazilian has been outstanding. His technical quality, defensive acumen, athleticism and attacking guile have been key for Unai Emery’s side, who are just one point outside the top four ahead of Sunday's trip to Nottingham Forest.

The top six

Position Pos Club Played Pl GD Points Pts
1 Man City MCI 38 +62 91
2 Arsenal ARS 38 +62 89
3 Liverpool LIV 38 +45 82
4 Aston Villa AVL 38 +15 68
5 Spurs TOT 38 +13 66
6 Chelsea CHE 38 +14 63
See the full table

Douglas Luiz is excellent at delivering accurate long passes.

An impressive 67.8 per cent of them reach their intended target, and only two Premier League midfielders have produced more successful long passes so far this season. 

Succ. long passes from midfielders 2023/24
Player Succ. long passes
Rodri 53
Enzo Fernandez 46
Douglas Luiz 40
Bruno Fernandes 40
Oliver Norwood 39

This attribute is a wonderful asset for Emery, who loves his side to exploit the pace and movement of Ollie Watkins and Moussa Diaby.

Villa have launched 32 direct attacks in 2023/24, the most in the division, and Douglas Luiz has been involved in many of those quickly-constructed moves.

As you can see from the pass map below, Douglas Luiz likes to release Watkins inside the opposition half.

Three of the five passes he found the striker with in last month's 4-1 win against West Ham United were progressive and over distance.

Douglas Luiz passes to Watkins

Douglas Luiz enjoys a terrific partnership with Boubacar Kamara, and because of that connection at the base of Villa's midfield, the Brazilian is able to enjoy more touches than any team-mate.

He also plays a greater number of successful passes into the opposition half, with 29.4 per 90 minutes, and into the final third, with 14.38 per 90 minutes. Douglas Luiz is exceptionally comfortable in possession and smoothly keeps the side ticking over.

Working in an effective midfield

The 25-year-old is not the most physically imposing midfielder, but he is quick across the turf and smart with his positioning.

Working alongside Kamara and John McGinn in an industrious midfield, Douglas Luiz has natural ball-winning qualities.

His performance in the 3-1 home win against Crystal Palace in September was exceptional.

That afternoon the Brazilian made six tackles, four of which were successful, plus one interception and an astonishing 16 ball recoveries.

His defensive chalkboard from that encounter outlines just how mobile and effective he can be. 

Douglas Luiz tackles v Palace
Blue: recoveries, clearances and interceptions. Green: tackles won. Red: tackles lost

Douglas Luiz is neither a fixed defensive midfielder nor a No 8. He is a complete central midfielder who also offers a goal threat.

His excellent set-piece assist for McGinn last time out against Luton Town was the seventh successive home match in which he had produced a direct goal involvement.

That broke Dwight Yorke’s record of a goal or assist in six straight home encounters.

Douglas Luiz set-piece to McGinn

Unafraid to push on and support his strikers, both of Douglas Luiz’s non-penalty goals this season have come when he has run onto the ball to strike a shot from outside the box.

He was also incredibly unlucky not to score another long-range goal when his gorgeous curler was saved by West Ham’s Alphonse Areola, with one of the saves of season.

Douglas Luiz has produced the most shots from distance of all the orthodox Premier League central midfielders, having attempted 12 strikes so far.

This weekend’s opponents Nott'm Forest will need to be at their very best in midfield to stop Douglas Luiz controlling the match.

Also in this series

Part 2: Nketiah must find some away form if he is to rival Gabriel Jesus
Part 3: Will Palhinha or Amrabat dictate key midfield battle?

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