Tag Archives: Lucas Torreira

Matteo Guendouzi is Arsenal’s most complete midfielder

Recently I had a discussion with our friends over on YouAreMyArsenal about who Raul Sanllehi should be targeting to replace Granit Xhaka in the long term.

The produced this fantastic scouting report on Ibrahim Sangare; putting the 21-year-old Ivorian central midfielder as a long term replacement for Xhaka.

Whilst Sangare is a fantastic physical specimen, and would certainly add some power into the middle of the park, his passing is an issue.

Xhaka sees more of the ball than any other player at Arsenal. He is the main receiver in midfield when the ball is with the defence, and he starts most of our attacks.

On average last season in the Premier League, Xhaka averaged 77.4 passes a game. No player averaged more. He completed 85.3% of those passes.

Compare that to Sangare who averages just 49 passes a game, completing just 80.3% of them. Xhaka is completing 27 more passes a game on average than Sangare.

Xhaka’s pass completion has to be considered when we are discussing players to replace him.

Whilst it is easy to think that we need a hulking 6ft 3in monster of a midfielder who can break up play, we need that player to be able to pass the ball as he sees so much of it.

We are The Arsenal, not Stoke. A player’s ability on the ball is more important than his destructive impact. If he can not pass, he is useless for 60% of the time in the majority of our games.

At Arsenal you need to be able to pass the ball. That is highlighted in the pass competition of Arsenal’s other 2 central midfield options last season: Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi.

Last season Torreira averaged 46.8 passes a game, completing 87.4% of them. Guendouzi with 48.4 passes a game at 87.7%.

Both of these players averaged less passes per game than Xhaka, but it has to be taken into account that both came off the bench 10 times in the Premier League last season. Xhaka was averaging more minutes per game.

Xhaka still comes out on top, but the primary reason for this is Unai Emery sets up for the Swiss man to be the 1st receiver off of the defence.

If we are looking at a long term replacement for Granit Xhaka, we should look no further than someone who is already at the club. Matteo Guendouzi.

At just 20-years-old, Guendouzi has quickly established himself as a 1st team regular.

Last season he might have been outpassed by Xhaka, but we have seen him take huge strides forward again this season, including a man of the match performance against Tottenham

This season Guendouzi has completed 88.2% of his passes. A slight improvement but still an improvement.

The Frenchman has still played 2nd fiddle to Xhaka when it comes to how much of the ball they see – Xhaka is averaging an incredible 92 passes per 90 minutes this season.

In terms of his passing, Guendouzi is a more accurate passer than Xhaka, but plays less passes. As his importance to the team continues to grow, expect both of these to grow.

What has been impressive about Guendouzi this season is his defensive shift.

Whilst last season he was bottom of the table defensively, and some rightly labelled him as lazy at times, this season he has stepped up massively.

He is not too far behind Ibrahim Sangare, when it comes to defensive output. And it has to be remembered Sangare plays in a team who do a lot more defending than Arsenal (Toulouse finished 16th last season) – which also explains why Sangare’s total passes is lower.

So in Guendouzi we have a central defender who is over 6ft, whose passing is already amongst the best in the team and getting better, and who has now added a defensive awareness to his game.

Guendouzi could become the complete central midfielder. Capable of being 1st receiver and dictating the play, whilst also putting in the defensive shift of someone less cultured.

The man to replace Granit Xhaka at Arsenal is Matteo Guendouzi.

He is already better defensively than the Swiss midfielder and with time could become a better passer.

Based on the passing statistics, he is not yet ready to take over from Xhaka as 1st receiver, but his pass completion rate does excite me. He gives the ball away less than Xhaka (his biggest criticism).

Xhaka is going nowhere soon. His importance can be seen in those passing statistics. But as Guendouzi’s influence grows, Xhaka’s will naturally shrink.

It will no longer be a question as to “who should replace Xhaka” but “who should partner Guendouzi”. That man could still be Xhaka. It could also be Torreira or Joe Willock.

Guendouzi is very quickly turning into an all round central midfielder, and at 20-years-old will only get better.


Nelson and Willock set to be dropped as Pepe in line for first start

Arsenal will look to continue their 1 game unbeaten run in the Premier League this weekend against Burnley.

Having beaten Newcastle 1-0 at St James’ Park, Unai Emery has a bit of a selection headache.

Does he stick with the players who defended well, but created little for the match against Burnley; or does he bring in some of the fit again senior pro’s, including a couple of new signings.

Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson, Matteo Guendouzi and Calum Chambers all performed well against Newcastle and probably do not deserve to be dropped. However Emery will know how important it is to play the best team available, even if it ruffles a few feathers.

David Luiz sat patiently on the bench against Newcastle following his deadline day arrival. He had a full pre-season with Chelsea and is ready to play. Will Emery pick Luiz over Chambers or Sokratis? My bet is Emery might just reward Sokratis and Chambers with a fine 1st display and keep the pair in defence.

With Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac all out for one reason or another, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Nacho Monreal will be the full backs.

Moving to the middle of the park, the axis of Granit Xhaka and Guendouzi provided good cover for the defence. But at home against an average side, do we need to play 2 defensive midfielders? Could Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos come in for one? Giving the side a more creative option for deep.

And what for Lucas Torreira?

The Uruguayan midfielder played next to no part in pre-season (just 4 minutes against Barcelona) due to only returning to training on 1st August after the summers Copa America. Taking into account Xhaka and Guendouzi played a full part, I would not expect him to start against Burnley – he did not even get off the bench against Newcastle.

If Arsenal are winning comfortably, I expect Torreira to come off the bench and be given 20 minutes as he regains full match fitness.

That leaves Xhaka, Guendouzi and Ceballos fighting it out for the central midfield positions.

I actually think we might see all 3 start, with Ceballos replacing Joe Willock as creator in chief.

Willock had an OK game against Newcastle, but his performance is more remembered for a tackle than anything he created. He is a hard working talented footballer and I see his career actually being a little deeper than playing Number 10.

At home against Burnley we do not have to worry as much defensively, so it might be a better option to play the more attack minded Ceballos with Willock relegated to the bench.

On the wings, record signing Nicolas Pepe looked fairly sharp on Sunday despite only recently returning to training following playing in the African Cup of Nations and the stress of his big move.

Games like Liverpool away is why Pepe was bought. His pace and power key on the break. For that reason I expect him to start against Burnley on the right hand side, replacing Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Pepe to be substituted off on 60 minutes will be a bank bet if he starts.

The left wing is an interesting conundrum.

Nelson had a solid game against Burnley and you also have the aforementioned Mkhitaryan. Alexandre Lacazette is also available which gives Emery the option of playing Aubameyang wide left.

With one eye on that Liverpool game, I have a hunch that Emery might plumb for Lacazette up top and Aubameyang on the left. That will give 60 minutes to his 1st choice front 3 – Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe.

It might be harsh on Willock and Nelson, but football is not a business of compassion. We ned to play the best team we can. That means an exciting front 4 of Ceballos, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.

Expect Willock and Nelson to come off the bench (if we are not chasing the game) as well as Lucas Torreira.

It is exciting to actually have so many options.

Expected starting XI:


AMN Chambers Sokratis Monreal

Xhaka Guendouzi

Pepe Ceballos Aubameyang



Arsenal could target Lucas Torreira “friends” to help him settle

Talk of Lucas Torreira joining AC Milan is intensifying.

The majority of the talk of his departure comes off the back of an interview with talkSPORT’s International presenter Alvaro Romeo

Romeo has interviewed Torreira on numerous occasions over the last 12 months, and he explained how Torreira has struggled to settle at the London club.

‘The language has cost me, to be able to relate with my peers and with the people. It is very difficult when you can’t have dialogue.’ Said Torreira

‘And so is the climate. You go out in the morning and it is cloudy, you arrive late to your home and it is cloudy.

‘It is strange a little bit, the sun, the more of us that we are here and we are accustomed to having always or almost always the sun.’

Whilst Uruguayans speak Spanish (according to Google), it is not a pure form of the language, and is also influenced by the Portuguese of Brazil and Italian language. The Portuguese influence is a variant of Rocha, with bilingualism or the fusion of Spanish and Portuguese, known as Portuñol.

So whilst Unai Emery and most of his staff speak Spanish, as well as Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi and Mesut Ozil, they do not speak the exact same language.

In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sokratis, Arsenal also have a few players that speak Italian.

The problem is football clubs are full of cliques.

At Arsenal the biggest clique is the Franco-German one, containing the likes of Aubameyang, Ozil, Mustafi, Sokratis, Alexandre Lacazette, Matteo Guendouzi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Sead Kolašinac. Think back to nearly a year ago and “balloon gate” and those that were present.

This has meant that Torreira has perhaps felt isolated that many those who he could “relate to” would prefer to speak in German or French than Spanish.

You then have Bellerin who has been in England for so long he is basically a cockney.

Bellerin is a mysterious individual. There is always a feeling that he enjoys his own company, doing his own thing such as going to fashion shows. You rarely see or hear of him socialising with team mates, and it is clear his friendship group is not really football related, but with the Spanish community within London.

So the talk of Torreira struggling to settle probably has some legs in it.

Arsenal perhaps need to work harder at ensuring players do settle in England. Players struggling in their 1st year is not a new thing in football., and is certainly not just a problem Arsenal face.

Didier Drogba spoke brilliantly about his struggles to settle at Chelsea following a move from Marseille. It took him and his family a few years to settle and he had very little help from his club. As he became a senior player, Drogba went out of his way to ensure new signings had an arm round them and Chelsea developed a “new signings programme” based on Drogba’s advice.

In an interview back in 2009, Drogba said:

‘My family were feeling so good there so it was difficult for them to adapt here because of the difference between the language and everything.

‘But I think every player when they leave their country they need one year to adapt.

‘It took me one year so I think maybe one year is enough.’

It is nearly identical to what Torreira has said about Arsenal. Talking about the struggle to adapt, the language, the climate, everything.

Robert Pires struggled with life in England, but was surrounded by the likes of Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry. Arsenal’s French clique at the time could often be found frequenting the coffee shops around Hampstead. Had Pires not had the support network around him, he stay at Arsenal would probably have been brief.

To ensure Torreira does settle, and is not swayed by a move abroad, Arsenal need to provide him the support required.

Whether that be instructing the likes of Bellerin and Monreal to look after him (maybe this is why Monreal got another year). The club could help Torreira is go into the transfer market and sign him a “friend”. A team mate who he could relate to, build his own clique around.

Arsenal have been linked with Dennis Praet and Joachim Andersen this summer – two players who were team mates of Torreira at Sampdoria.

At Liverpool, Luis Saurez was taken under the wing by Lucas Leiva to help him settle.

Those speculating about Torreira’s departure are only focusing on the first part of the quotes where he talks bout his struggle to settle. They ignore the 2nd part of the interview where he says:

‘But as the years pass, I’m going to be adapting.

‘But for me, the balance was positive and I am satisfied and happy with what I did in the year.’

AC Milan may well be chasing Torreira, and looking to exploit the fact that it has been a tough 1st year for him to adapt in England. But Torreira is speaking about the future at Arsenal and clearly understands that as time passes, he will adapt.

What is clear is that Torreira is not demanding to leave Arsenal as he is ‘homesick’ and Arsenal just need to ensure that they build a support network around him (and other new signings) to help them settle.

If this means going out and buying him some “friends” then so be it.