Unai Emery has explained the reasoning behind his substitution of Lucas Torreira during Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Watford on Monday evening, per the London Evening Standard.
The Uruguay international was withdrawn at half-time, with Mesut Ozil introduced in his place.
Emery has explained that he merely withdrew Torreira as a precautionary measure.
The midfielder, of course, was involved in a clash with Troy Deeney in the first half which led to the striker’s sending off, having quite clearly aimed an elbow at Torreira’s face.
The little Uruguayan had a knock, according to Emery, and the manager also felt that the atmosphere had turned against the 23-year-old after his role in Deeney’s sending off.
Speaking to reporters, per the Evening Standard, Emery said: “First I decided to do the change of Lucas Torreira because after the red card, the atmosphere is against him and also the doctor said to me in the first half that he has a little pain for Thursday and I decided okay, it’s the moment to take him off.”
Arsenal face Napoli in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final later this week, with the Gunners attempting to see out a 2-0 lead, and Torreira could be involved in the game in Italy.
Emery added: “At the end, the doctor said to me that they are okay. Only in the first half with his small injury, Lucas Torreira, but I think it’s small and he can be ready for Thursday physically.”
Emery made the right decision.
Torreira was perhaps in the wrong place at the wrong time in regards to Deeney’s swinging arm, and fans quickly turned against him at Vicarage Road after the striker saw red.
Without him, the Gunners struggled to retain their bite in midfield and their fluidity in the build-up but Emery cannot risk being without him for the deciding game against Napoli.
The Serie A side may have been beaten at the Emirates but the Gunners’ record in away games this season is beyond poor and there will be lingering fears of an aggregate defeat.
Having Torreira fit and playing in the middle of the park limits the possibility of that outcome significantly, and the decision to withdraw the youngster and keep him fresh may even be what seals progression to the next round.