Arsenal

Time for Torreira: New Gunner must start

 • by James Nalton
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At the third attempt Unai Emery’s Arsenal regime is up-and-running. The Gunners did it the hard way, coming from behind to beat West Ham United 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

After defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea in their opening two games, it was just what the Gunners – and Emery – needed to usher in a new era.

The North London side have made several new signings in key areas, and though it remains to be seen whether they will all be instant successes, the fact the club’s hierarchy are actively looking to solve issues in certain areas is positive.

Emery has wasted no time in getting to work on the problems which blighted Arsenal towards the end of Arsène Wenger’s reign. He has added experience and grit in the shape of Stephan Lichtsteiner, who will be an important player in the dressing room regardless of whether he takes to the pitch regularly.

The Swiss right-sided player signed from Juventus on free transfer this summer, and the 34-year-old adds a competitive streak which Arsenal have been lacking.

Another area where they have solidified is in midfield, and one player in particular should give them the tenacity they have been lacking in front of the back four.

Uruguayan defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira was Arsenal’s most expensive signing of the summer, costing a fee in the region of £26 million, and with good reason.

The 22-year-old could turn out to be one of the best signings of this transfer window once he settles into his new club, and though he’s not featured much in pre-season due to his participation in the World Cup, he should walk straight into this Arsenal side with little in the way of a bedding in period.

Uruguay made it to the quarter-finals of this summer’s tournament in Russia, with Torreira playing a part in the much improved side which defeated the hosts in the group stage and Portugal in the last 16, before going out to eventual winners, France, in the last eight.

Rather than having to fit into a system and learn a style of play, the former Sampdoria man will himself set the tone for this style, and a midfielder of his quality and type could slot straight into most sides across Europe, regardless of the system they play.

This is especially true of Arsenal, who have lacked a player fitting his profile for some time, and this means the he would be able to come straight into the starting lineup against City despite not having much time to settle in.

Torreira’s 5ft 6ins (168cm) frame puts him in the diminutive category, but he’s an agile and combative defensive midfielder, who also has the ability to start attacks. He averaged over two interceptions per game last season, while also making close to three tackles per 90 minutes.

When it comes to keeping possession he is up there with the best, and even in a mid-table side who don’t always dominate games, he was able to complete 87 per cent of his passes throughout the season.

His Football Whispers Player Persona, shown below, is evidence of his excellent contributions to build-up play, and also his defensive ability. He’s a destroyer of opposition attacks, and an instigator of attacking moves for his own team.

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He’s also reliable in terms of availability, and this type of consistency and durability is something Arsenal have lacked from key players in the past.

He played 3,184 minutes for Sampdoria in Serie A last season, missing just one game through suspension due to an accumulation of yellow cards, while he took a deserved rest and sat out the last game of the season with the club’s mid table finish assured.

Even with a World Cup under his belt in the summer, Torreira should be able to play the majority of games for his new club. At 22 years old the Gunners can rely on his youth and energy for many years, even with a Copa América to come with Uruguay in the summer of 2019, meaning he’ll be participating in back to back international competitions.

Torreira has been eased into Premier League life, coming off the bench in each of Arsenal’s first three games of the new season. The Gunners have been immediately improved upon his arrival in each.

Gunners’ head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, may have taken a few chances further back in the defence with centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos and goalkeeper Bernd Leno, but in front of them the club have managed to pull off a solid signing with surprisingly little competition.

Now Emery must decide whether the Uruguayan is ready to command a regular starting berth having preferred the pairing of Granit Xhaka and Mattéo Guendouzi at the base of midfield. His predecessor was never afraid of giving youth a chance and that is one legacy Emery would do well to follow.

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