Initially, I think we were all very excited with the acquisition of Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria, back in the summer of 2018. His performances in the World Cup were impressive. The standout one was the game against Portugal, where he put in a tremendous display against Ronaldo. With two seasons of top flight English football under his belt, this article will analyse how he has faired so far in his Arsenal career.
During the start of the 2018/19 campaign, Unai Emery deployed a 4-2-3-1 system, with a Guendouzi-Xhaka midfield pivot. Whilst Matteo started well with a few encouraging performances, it wasn’t a sustainable, midfield partnership that would provide us with longevity and consistency. This was because, out of possession, there wasn’t the tenacity and bite that was needed, particularly when playing against the ‘top sides’ within the division. The two opening games against Manchester City and Chelsea provides evidence for this.
Eventually our Uruguayan Pitbull was given an opportunity to cement his place within the team. He took his chance really well, providing us with many top, quality performances. Breaking up play, interceptions, blocks, tackles e.c.t, he provided us with essential attributes that we lacked within our midfield. A breath of fresh air.
Although there were plenty of cracks and flaws in the early unbeaten run, the relationship developed between Xhaka and Torreira was encouraging. Granit provided the progression from deep, with his line breaking ability, whilst Lucas remained within close proximity to his Swiss partner, and limiting his defensive responsibilities. Both complimented each other’s attributes well and it was similar to the Coquelin-Cazorla partnership, although not quite as good in my opinion.
A standout performance from our 5ft 6in destroyer was in the North London Derby win at the Emirates. I was privileged to have gone to that game and he was sensational! His outstanding display was capped off with a well taken goal in the 77th minute.
Come January 2019 however, it was clear to me that we started to see a drop in his performance levels. Signs of him burning out, because of the high volume of games he played, was evident and his form towards the end of the season was concerning.
The first half of last season was shambolic and Emery is largely to blame for this. There was frequent, unusual formation changes along with a clear lack of structure and balance within the team, out of possession, which was the reason why Leno was facing continuous shots on goal.
There were so many questionable decisions the former PSG manager was making at the time and the mismanagement of Torreira was arguably one of his most bizarre ones. From my perspective, it was shocking to see the advanced positions Lucas was taking frequently. At times, he was playing as a number ten and ahead of Mesut!
To play this role, you need someone who can drift in between the lines, be excellent in tight spaces with strong close touch control and have the ability to make the right decisions in possession. He doesn’t provide that. Lucas is a ‘destroyer’, and should be tasked to primarily influence the game when we don’t have the ball. He has no use to us when playing in these attacking areas.
Arteta came in and restored the team back to basics. 4-2-3-1, with a balanced midfield pivot consisting of Torreira-Xhaka, with Ozil in the whole, was the regular system deployed, pre COVID-19. It was great to see Lucas back in a more defensive role within the team and he provided us with some solid performances. Most notable one for me was the game against Manchester United on New Year’s Day.
Ceballos vs Torreira
There came a point towards the latter stages of the season where Arteta favoured a Ceballos-Xhaka pivot. Initially I wasn’t sure about this partnership as there was uncertainty as to whether Dani could provide the same levels of performance which Torreira gives us defensively. But he showed to be very capable. Winning tackles, interceptions and tracking players were aspects implemented into his game.
In possession, our Spanish maestro certainly is a far more progressive player along with possessing better press resistant qualities. Ceballos has the ability to receive the ball, in between the centre backs and provide progression through either forward passes or driving with the ball from deep.
So lets analyse the two. If we look at Dani, he showed that he was able to provide similar traits and attributes defensively to Torreira. But on the ball, he is able to influence the game a lot more. His quality in possession, ability to break the lines and provide key passes is what gives him the edge for me. Hopefully we can strike a deal with Real Madrid and acquire his services for at least one more year.
I see a lot of similarities in Lucas’s game with Fred, from Manchester United. Both players provide tenacity and are able to get around the pitch. But they lack the positional discipline to play as a lone six. In terms of their offensive play, they don’t provide the influence that is required as they are not able to drift in between the lines, create and score goals.
Overall, I do like him and his style of play. The energy and intensity he provides, along with his terrier like qualities, is very attractive. But he clearly has never settled here in England and has struggled to cope with the physicality of the Premier League. Reports have come out in recent weeks, which state that both him and the club are happy to do a deal that would allow him play his football away from the Emirates. I think this is the best solution, especially because of the fact that both him and his agent have always been flirting with a move back to Italy. Move him on and use that money to invest in a player, like Thomas Partey, who would be a significant upgrade.
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23 years of age, 23 years as a Gooner. Arsenal runs through my veins and it pains me to see the current position and state of the club. Reading many football articles over the years has inspired me to write blogs containing Arsenal analysis. I’ve always wanted my fellow Gooners to be aware of my thoughts and opinions of ‘The Arsenal’ and thanks to Dave and Paul, I now have a platform which makes this possible.