After arriving from Sampdoria in the summer of 2018, Lucas Torreira enjoyed a relatively impressive debut campaign at Arsenal. The pint-sized midfielder featured an incredible 50 times for the Gunners, scoring two goals and providing a further five assists. But rather than what he could offer going forward, it was his defensive tenacity that gave the north London side something they had been missing.
Last season, as per Whoscored, Torreira averaged 1.9 tackles and 1.2 interceptions per game, and showed flashes of the kind of defensive midfielder Arsenal needed. But his start to the current campaign saw former Gunners manager Unai Emery utilise him further forward, trying to get him to press from the front.
But on Monday night, interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg once again deployed him as one of the two deeper-lying midfielders, and the Uruguay international showed exactly what he can bring to the table. As per Sofascore, he managed a 7.3 match rating – the third-highest of any Gunners player. And when looking at the underlying numbers it is easy to see why. The £26m man won all five of his ground duels, completed all four of his attempted long balls, and made one interception and tackle too.
And just days after coming under criticism from sections of the Gunners support, Arsenal fans were quick to head to Twitter to praise their midfielder for his much-improved display.
Torreira had an excellent game
— Talal El-Zein (@elzein32AFC) 9 December 2019
Ozil was terrible all game lol. Torreira was the one who turned the game from midfield https://t.co/boR7cWKsr5
— Rizwaan (@riz_afc) 9 December 2019
Many Gunners fans were quick to hail Torreira’s passing and his use of the ball, and insisted that his passing into the likes of Mesut Ozil were the key to getting a victory against the Hammers.
Its a complete myth that Torreira doesn’t have technical quality. He’s been the one picking out Ozil in between the lines time and again.
— LTArsenal™ (@ltarsenal) 9 December 2019
Torreira is a genius…man has got great technical abilities
— Henry Nwokesonye (@RealistHenry) 9 December 2019
His pass weight is also quite decent. His pass to kola for the first goal was perfectly weighted. Drop Xhaka and start guendouzi next week bcoz we need all the legs on sunday
— Aakash Shah (@aakashs317) 10 December 2019
Torreira actually looking like a top 4 player today. Defensive qualities aside, hes actually making some passes between the lines.
— N95 (@afc_n95) 9 December 2019
All those line breaking passes from Torreira in the second half were the things Cazorla used to do. Oh Santi
— Bsa Bsika (@SayoIroko) 9 December 2019
Whilst Emery’s experiment with Torreira was understandable in the sense that he wanted someone who could win the ball back high up the pitch, it deflected from the fact the Uruguayan is a more natural holding midfielder. And he showed that with an imperious display against the Hammers on Monday night. If Ljungberg continues to employ him in that position, the north London side should get rich rewards from it.