Like the majority of Arsenal fans, I got my first viewing of Lucas Torreira on Monday – that was not on YouTube.
It is easy to look at things through rose-tinted spectacles, but it was impossible not to be impressed by his performance in Uruguay’s 3-nil win over Russia.
Playing in front of the back 4 as the deepest man in a midfield 3, it is the exact role Arsenal have signed him for. I expect us to play 4321 next season, with Torreira to be flanked by Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey.
Torreira’s performance was exactly what Arsenal have been missing for some time.
He ran 10.km during the 90 minutes. He was everywhere, working hard, getting stuck in. He seemed to fully understand that his role in the team was to protect the defence – not to bomb forward and create like Francis Coquelin used to try and do.
Uruguay played very similar to Arsenal – with both full backs bombing forward and providing the width. Torreira allowed them to send both full backs forward without being exposed at the back; often dropping into defence to make a back 3.
At one point Torreira’s tried to block Fyodor Smolov’s cross with his head while he’s on the ground. Uruguay were 2-0 up with 5 minutes to go at that time. It is the commitment we have missed for a few seasons.
It was not just warrior battling that impressed, but his brain and over all play.
He covered a lot of ground but was certainly not a headless chicken. 3 interceptions and zero tackles showed that he did not have to get “stuck in” in the middle of the park. Instead he was reading the game and ensuring he did not have to commit a last gasp tackle.
Torriera also did not give away any free kicks – highlighting his incredible positioning during the game. He was never on the wrong side of an opponent, never in the wrong place trying to get back.
At Arsenal, you need to be able to pass. We play out from the back. Our defensive midfielder usually sees ore of the ball than any other player – we all remember those Mikel Arteta 100 completed pass statistics.
Torreira completed 94.6% of his 56 passes. For Arsenal he can expect to add 50% to his total passes. At that many passes, anything around the 95% mark is incredible.
For The Arsenal, he will mainly be winning the ball and making short, sharp passes back to the defence (if under pressure) or into Xhaka or Ramsey to launch an attack.
What is important is that he understands his role in the team. He is not a playmaker. He is not switching the play with Hollywood balls. He is there to cover the defence and pass the ball on. And for Uruguay that is exactly what he did.
Torriera has been identified by Sven Mislintat. The German will know a lot more about him than any Arsenal fan. He looks to be a terrific signing and a steal at £26m.