Tag Archives: Lucas Torreira

4312 for The Arsenal is not “too defensive”

Arsenal’s best performance this season came against Chelsea. A 2-0 victory in a game that The Gunners dominated.

The formation we played in that match was 4312. It is a formation we have played numerous times since; and one which Unai Emery has come in for some stick for.

Fans wrongly claim that we are playing 3 defensive midfielders. Lucas Torreira Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi. They are not all defensive midfielders.

Gunners Town recently spoke to a Lorient fan about Arsenal target Alexis Claude Maurice. During the discussion they talked about Guendouzi, who signed from Lorient last summer.

They expressed surprise at Arsenal fans labelling Guendouzi as a defensive or holding midfielder, as he has only ever been box-to-box growing up and was utilised in an attacking free role last season in French Ligue 2.

And that is the truth, Guendouzi does not play as a defensive midfielder. He is more box to box. A proper central midfielder. Like what Patrick Vieira was.

It seems in many fans mind, you are either an attacking midfielder (Mesut Ozil) or a defensive midfielder (Claude Makelele). There is nothing in between. But there is, and that is where Guendouzi sits.

Xhaka has also never really been an out and out defensive midfielder. In fact he struggled at Arsenal when he was the primary defensive midfielder.

For Borussia Mönchengladbach and Switzerland, he always played with someone behind him doing the bulk of the defensive work.

A hulk of a man, Xhaka did contribute to his sides defensively, but his man job was transitioning the ball from defence to attack with his excellent passing. He is not as box to box as Guendouzi, more a deep lying play maker. He certainly is not a defensive midfielder.

Lucas Torreira is the closest we have to a defensive midfielder, but even he is not a Makelele or Gilberto Silva.

The Uruguayan gets forward a lot more than someone who is simply a shied in front of a defence. And he is a much better passer and creator then people like Makelele, Gilberto or Fernandinho.

Whilst for Arsenal he is the deepest of the midfield 3, he is more than capable playing further forward. He is a talented guy.

The reality is, Emery is building a high energy midfield trio who can provide solid cover for the defence, but also push forward and press high.

Playing all 3 ensures that they can push forward backing up the front 3 when they press, knowing that one will still sit so that they are not all cut out with one ball through the midfield.

They also allow Hector Bellerin and Saed Kolasinac to bomb forward and provide extra cover for them.

I like the 12 upfront as well.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both love dropping out wide. This then creates space in the middle for an attacking midfielder to bomb into. Aaron Ramsey would have been ideal for this role with his goal scoring record.

Back to the midfield, I can see us continuing to play 3 in the middle next season. It is why Emery is looking at the likes of Adrien Rabiot and Christopher Nkunku. If we play 3, we need 6.

If we secure both Frenchmen, it will enable us to cash in on Mohamed Elneny and, alongside Ainsley Maitland-Niles, we will have the midfielders we need to play the way Emery wants.

As for those who are still moaning about it being too defensive, let me ask you a question:

Is Liverpool’s midfield too defensive?

Liverpool also play a midfield 3. A trio combination of Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho.

Let’s compare their Premier League statistics to the lads at Arsenal:

Xhaka – 1885 minutes played – 3 Goals; 1 Aassist

Guendouzi – 1466 – 0G 0A

Torreira – 1790 – 2G 2A


Fabinho – 1096 – 1G 2A

Wijnaldum – 1774 – 1G 0A

Henderson – 1234 – 0G 0A

Keita – 970 – 0G 1A



Arsenal midfield:

5140 minutes played

5 goals; 3 assists

Liverpool midfield:

5074 minutes played

2 goals; 3 assists

Yet no one is saying Liverpool’s midfield is “too defensive.”

The truth is, playing Xhaka, Torreira and Guendouzi is not too defensive. It is probably the only part of the Arsenal side that is solid and actually working at the moment.


Should Arsenal sell Lucas Torreira?

Good recruitment is the reason why Liverpool are in the title race.

They do not bring in as much commercial revenue as Manchester United, do not have the gate receipts of Arsenal, and their owners do not put billions in like Manchester City. They have built a title challenging team based on good recruitment and good coaching.

Good recruitment is by just about the players you buy; but also the players you sell.

Over the last 5 years, Arsenal and Liverpool have a very similar net spend. Rough figures are:

Arsenal: £255m

Liverpool: £211m

Yet in those 5 years, Liverpool have had a total expenditure of nearly £200m more than Arsenal:

Arsenal: £434m

Liverpool: £633m

There higher expenditure has come due to generating nearly £250m in sales.

One thing that has held Arsenal back in the transfer market is an inability to raise funds through player sales. Meanwhile Liverpool have commanded eye watering transfer fees for some assets.

Arsenal have struggled due to having too many average players on high wages that other teams do not want.

Lucas Perez is an example of that.

Cost £35m on a high wage, we let him go to West Ham for just £4m after 2 seasons. A loss of £31m.

This summer we are set to lose Danny Welbeck, Petr Cech, David Ospina and Aaron Ramsey I’m free transfers.

Average players only tell half the story though.

Whilst Liverpool have got good prices for some average players (£27m for Christian Benteke, £18m for Danny Ings, £12.5m for Danny Ward, £24m for Mamadou Sakho, £4m for Kevin Stewart) they have also taken the risk by selling off key assets.

This Liverpool side began to be built in January 2013 when they signed talented but struggling Brazilian Philippe Coutinho for just £8.5m. It was a deal that in the early days Arsene Wenger would have done.

18 months after his signing saw the club take a huge risk by selling Luis Suarez.

By risk, it was king of out of their hands. After the Arsenal fiasco a year earlier, Suarez forced their hand and Barcelona got their man – signing the Uruguayan for £65m. A nice profit meaning the club had a good chunk of change in their pocket.

A year later they signed the likes of Roberto Firminho, James Milner, Joe Gomez and Nathaniel Clyne.

Other transfer dealings did not go as well (the aforementioned Benteke & Ings, Mario Balotelli). But in the majority of cases when a player didn’t work out, they still managed to make a profit on them. Even if it was a slight one.

This kept the money rolling in. The coffers filled up to continue improving their squad.

In 2016, they somehow managed to raise £76.5m in player sales. A lot of average out of the door. These were replaced by £62m of incoming players.

They signed the likes of Georgino Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane and still made a profit.

This smart recruitment, buying low and selling high, meant that in the summer of 2017 they were able to splash out on Mo Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andy Robertson. And the. The second huge risk came.

Having already sold their best player to Barcelona a few years earlier – and reinvesting that money wisely – they did it again in January 2018.

8th January 2018 Liverpool sold Coutinho for a reported £105m. Nearly £100m profit.

This money enabled Jurgen Klopp and his team to buy the final pieces of the puzzle. Virgil van Dijk for £70m and Alisson for £55m.

Being smart in the transfer window meant that the summer of 2018, they spent £170m yet only bought in £15m from player sales.

The money had built up over previous transfer windows – where they were able to turn a profit and still improve the squad.

We are nearing the end of 2018 and they now sit top of the league. Selling Suárez, selling Coutinho, is now justified.

So back to London.

As mentioned, a huge problem for Arsenal is the lack of sellable assets. Or it was a huge problem before Sven Mislintat came in and recruited the likes of Lucas Torreira, Bernd Leno and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

It is the first man on that list that makes you think.

Manchester City are crying out for a long term replacement for Fernandinho. Torreira would be the ideal player for them. Arsenal could easily command £100m for the Uruguayan next summer.

Should Arsenal follow Liverpool’s lead; sell a couple of the top players for huge prices which enables further investment in the squad.

The question you need to ask is: Do you trust Sven?

If we sold Torreira for £100m, could he replace Torreira, and get in 3 or 4 more players that improve the overall squad?

We turn a profit in the transfer market, building funds up for a “big summer” like Liverpool did prior to the start of this season, but improve the entire squad at the same time.

Sacrificing one player to buy four.

Of course, it can go wrong.

Many of the players Liverpool signed after Suárez struggled – although they made a profit on them. And Tottenham’s attempts to replace Gareth Bale after selling him for £90m were hilarious. But that’s why it comes back to the question.

Do you trust Sven?

For the (mythical) £100n we get for Torreira, could Sven recruit his replacement for similar to what we bought him for (~£25m). Could he then go out and buy a £35m central defender and a £40m winger? I think he could.

A lot of people will say “you don’t build a winning team if you sell your best players”.

That in part is true. But you can build a winning team if you sell one of your best players, and with that money buy 3 additional equally as good players.

Sell one; get 3.

What about if a side offers £30m for Matteo Guendouzi? Or £30m for Bernd Leno? Should Arsenal consider these?

I am not saying we should go out and sell Torreira to a rival; but it is clear from what Liverpool have done that sometimes you need to sell one piece in the jigsaw to buy 3 more.

Keeping Torreira in the short term might be beneficial for Arsenal, but in the long term, selling him and signing 3 could go a long way to building a title challenging team.

In hindsight, in the summer of 2017 we perhaps should have accepted bids for Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Raised nearly £150m between them; and reinvested that…


5 changes Unai Emery needs to make at Arsenal

Return to 4 at the back

I have never been a fan of 3 at the back.

It puts too much onus on the full backs, less to too much space in behind them and not enough cover in front.

To play 3 at the back you need your wide centre backs to be comfortable at full back.

Tottenham can do it as in Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweild, they have two central defenders who have previously played full back.

Arsenal need to return to 4 at the back.

Play Xhaka/Torreira in the middle

The axis of Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira is the best central midfield pairing in the Premier League.

The pair compliment each other. Both can defend, both can pass.

Torreira has allowed Xhaka to push further up the park, allowing him to be his aggressive self on the half way line. The Uruguayan also gives us that extra bit of protection when Xhaka miss reads a tackle or pass.

Both also have tremendous ability on the ball. Playing the pair gives the defence and goal keeper 2 options when playing out from the back. It is no surprise our passing is a lot better when both play.

Ultimately, the statistics speak for themselves:

Sign genuine width

Alex Iwobi is not good enough to play week in, week out. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are not natural wide men. Arsenal need to invest in a pair of wide forwards.

Playing 4 at the back, with Xhaka and Torreira in the middle, Arsenal have a stable base and centre. Add two wide men either side of a number 10 and the team is starting to take shape.

In the early part of the season, we were a threat in behind the opponents fulls backs. This was due to Iwobi and Aubameyang getting in behind – or making space for Bellerin and Monreal to get in behind.

With Iwobi and Mkhitaryan playing narrow, we lose all width and cover for the full backs.

Reiss Nelson returns in the summer. We need someone one the left hand side.

Decide his best striker

A tough decision needs to be made up top.

We have two top class strikers who broke our transfer record. Unai Emery needs to decide who his first choice is; and stick to it.

Do not panic

We have just lost our first game after going 22 unbeaten. We are in the race for 4th and progressing nicely in Europe.

Against Southampton we were a defensive mess. We were without our 3 first choice centre backs and started the game with a midfielder and a right back in central defence.

At the final whistle the only two defenders on the pitch have not started a league game for a combined 12 months.

There is not need to panic. No need to be rash in the transfer market.

Emery is here for the long term. Sanllehi and Mislintat have a long term vision. There is no need to rip that up just because we lost 1 game.