Lucas Torreira wasn’t in the best position of his career two months ago. In terms of his mental conditioning at Arsenal and in terms of his position on the pitch, things were seemingly going awry. He had drawn links with Napoli and was cutting a frustrating figure. But with Mike Arteta now at the helm, things are back in control.
That is the case for Arsenal, not just Arteta. They seem to have an identity and system- something they didn’t have under Unai Emery and Freddi Ljungberg. They’re playing a certain way and they’ve already two clean sheets- something that was rare under Emery. Those clean sheets have come against good sides like Manchester United and Leeds United.
A lot of it has been down to how Torreira is back to playing in his best position. He’s being used in the defensive midfield position- like he was at Sampdoria under Marco Giampaolo. He has the onus of being that ball-winner in the heart of the park.
Under Emery, many things were muddled. The midfield structure was one of those things. Torreira was often playing as the box-to-box midfielder, who had to take the ball forward. In many games- like Arsenal’s trip to Old Trafford, Torreira was the best advanced midfielder. That was not doing him justice and let to uncertainties around his future.
But now, he’s back to his best. Playing in a system that focuses on possession is something he has done before at Samp. He had more forward-thinking midfielders around him. In his two seasons at the blucerchiati, Torreira won 2.8 tackles per game. He also won at least 2 interceptions per game.
He’s now given the license to do more of that. Against Bournemouth, Torreira won two tackles and made two interceptions. He also won 100 percent of his aerial duels, winning two of them. Not just that, but the Uruguayan completed two dribbles and was key in getting the ball forward from deep. He was also the third-best passer, playing 68 passes in the game.
He was crucial against United in the 2-0 win too. He was again the defensive midfielder, playing alongside Granit Xhaka. The 23-year-old won two tackles, making just as many interceptions. He made as many as four clearances for the side. When Arsenal had dropped into their own half in the second half, he was constantly battling for the ball. Most of his contributions came in the second half, because of that.
After the game, Alan Shearer reserved some praise for the midfielder.
“[Lucas] Torreira I thought was excellent in the middle of the park,” Shearer told Match of the Day.
“[Alexandre] Lacazette and [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang were tracking back and winning the ball back, doing their bits as well. But it wasn’t just about the work off the ball.”
Even against Everton in Ljungberg’s last game, Torreira was the deepest midfielder. He probably was the club’s best player in a drab game of football. He won three aerial duels, winning a tackle and interception each.
The fact that Torreira is good enough on the ball is a huge help too. This player has played under Giampaolo’s tactically complex system before and that has made him a smart player. Arsenal need to make the most of this player, considering how he’s in a more preferred role. They missed him against Leeds, as Kalvin Phillips made a huge impact in midfield.
But as time goes on, Torreira will only get better. And the Gunners have to milk the most out of him.