He comes from Uruguay, he’s only 5-foot high
It took a few games for Unai Emery to integrate Lucas Torreira into the Arsenal XI. It was baffling at the beginning of the season why the Spaniard did not play the £22million summer signing.
As with everything to do with the new manager, I backed his decision. There must have been reasons for it. But the team was desperately calling out for him to start. We lacked the balance in the opening games that he could bring us.
Two of Arsenal’s biggest problems in recent years is space in behind over exposed full backs, and the reliance on Granit Xhaka as the sole shield in front of the back 4.
At the beginning of this season, Hector Bellerin came in for some largely unfair criticism.
He was caught out a lot on the right hand side, balls in behind him leading to chances or caught out up field whilst the opponents broke. A lack of winger ahead of him or lack of central midfielder to cover him left him overworked, often in two-on-one situations.
At the time I call for Torreira to come in, that he would fill the gap the full-backs leave when bombing forward. He would cover both in front and behind them.
In the last 3 Premier League games, Bellerin’s performances have dramatically improved. He is getting quality into the box going forward, and does not look exposed at the back. This is the Torreira affect.
Granit Xhaka has also performed well recently.
He was never the deepest lying midfielder. His natural game is to press around the half way line. Be aggressive higher up the park. Win the ball to launch attacks. But to do this he needed someone behind him to clean up his mistakes. That if he is bypassed higher up the pitch, the opponents are not straight at the defence.
By playing Torreira alongside Xhaka, the Swiss midfielder has a partner in crime. Someone to share the defensive load. Someone who will allow him to be more aggressive up the field.
It is not a coincidence that Torreira’s first Premier League start led to Arsenal’s first clean sheet – a 2-0 win over Everton. That in the 3 Premier League games he has started, Arsenal have conceded just once.
It is not just defensively that Torreira has improved Arsenal.
With a nearly 90% pass completion rate in the Premier League, he has given the goal keeper and defence another options when playing out of the back.
His one and two touch passing is excellent. He has a picture in his head of what is happening and is able to release the ball quickly. He keeps it simple, playing to team mates in space.
We struggled at the beginning of the season playing out of defence. One problem was that in the midfield they only really had Xhaka looking for the ball. This led to the ball going back to the goal keeper too often which led everyone to drop deeper.
Now when the defenders, or Bernd Leno, get their head up, there are two options.
Xhaka and Torreira.
Double the options also means the player they are passing too has more time.
Previously an opponent would put 2 men on Xhaka. This would take him out of play of lead him to be under a lot of pressure when he received the ball.
With Torreira and the double pass option, the midfielders are receiving the ball in more space, under less pressure. It makes the passing safer, the situation more relaxed.
With Torreira and Xhaka in the middle, we look more balanced than we have done since the Fabregas / Flamini years.
A brilliant signing.