For years, Arsenal fans have begged for a ‘proper’ defensive midfielder, and this summer the club has signed Lucas Torreira for £22 million. We can accept that he needs time to settle into the squad, but there are many reasons as to why he has to be in the starting 11 come Saturday evening.
Torreira was brought in to be the answer to a long-standing question. We’ve needed a real CDM for years, and for us to pick up a talent with as much intelligence, discipline and potential as Lucas Torreira, is incredibly exciting for the fans. Seeing him at the World Cup for Uruguay, and the brief appearances against Lazio and Manchester City has done nothing to settle any stirring anticipation. We want to see more.
The excitement of seeing a new signing get his first starting role for the club is not the only reason for why he has to start against Chelsea. The Uruguayan could be vital in getting a result, and making sure Arsenal don’t go their opening two games in a new Premier League season, pointless. First of all, he is the only player of his kind in the squad; an energetic, snapping at ankles, persistent, little defensive beast that can offer true protection to our back four.
For the last couple of seasons, we have been trying to deploy Xhaka or Elneny in this role, but both players lack the tactical and positional intelligence to fulfil the needs of the position. I like Xhaka a lot and I think he gives the team a unique quality when in possession of the ball, however, his defensive capabilities are not up to standard. He is slow, off with his defensive positioning, and rash in the tackle.
Torreira however, is the opposite. He is quick over the ground, tactically intelligent, and knows when to commit to a challenge. Against the top teams, this is important when countering players that operate in between the lines and in the half spaces.
Chelsea have a new manager, playing with a different style (does that remind you of anyone?). If the pre-season friendly in Dublin is anything to go by, it will be a great game of football. It also seems as though we will be the team that will see more of the ball, all the more reason for Lucas Torreira. Özil, as we know, is a different class in possession but does not offer us a lot going backwards. Ramsey, yes, is ok defensively, but is also liable to be caught out in the transition from attack to defence. Guendouzi looks capable, but we saw a couple of mistakes last weekend, which can be understood but not forgotten.
Torreira allows all of our midfielders to play their best game, while simultaneously playing his own. He will sense danger when Chelsea’s defence makes a quick interception and Eden Hazard is ready and waiting for a counter. Meaning we don’t have to rely solely on Özil tracking back or Xhaka recognising the risks, thank goodness.
With our lack of width and Chelsea’s abundance in wide players, there is a significant risk in getting caught out in these areas. Bellerin and Monreal/Lichtsteiner are likely to bomb forward in order to give us those options on the flank when attacking, and we will be susceptible to the break. Getting the extra cover from Torreira here could prove to be essential when facing the counter-attack, and I don’t know about you, but I think I can count on one hand the number of times Xhaka has given us that kind of security.
It’s also worth mentioning that Torreira isn’t just a destroyer, we saw on Sunday that he can play a killer ball, albeit that Aubameyang was called offside for the one time we put the ball in the net. This means that not only can he break up an opposition attack, but he can also be quick in the transition and get us moving right back up the pitch. Those line breaking passes might well be a heavy feature of our game this season with the likes of Guendouzi, who’s been doing it for fun in pre-season, and Xhaka, who has an incredible passing range. Chelsea tend to be very structured in the way they line up, and clever, intricate passes will be needed if we are going to break through that kind of formation. Lucas Torreira is the perfect blend of what we need in our midfield when playing a team like Chelsea.
All the hype and talk over the summer has got me giddy over seeing a full performance from our new Uruguayan warrior, and even while writing this I am grinning ear to ear thinking about how he’ll slot into our already impressive midfield. Having this kind of confidence in our defensive ability is such a rare feeling as an Arsenal fan. We are so used to being filled with fear whenever a team attacks our backline. Lucas Torreira is what we have been crying out for after seasons of frailty and anxiety. He needs to be in the starting 11 to play Chelsea.