Arsenal Vs Bournemouth: This is the Lucas Torreira I remember

Arsenal, Lucas Torreira (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Lucas Torreira (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) /

Arsenal drew with Bournemouth on Boxing Day in Mikel Arteta’s first game in charge. The best player on the pitch was Lucas Torreira. This the version I remember.

Arsenal needed a defensive midfielder. It was a position of terrible neglect under Arsene Wenger, but now, with a new regime in charge of the team, perhaps a shift in philosophy and focus would provide a solution to the biggest problem in football for over a decade.

Find the latest episode of the Pain in the Arsenal Podcast here — After Everton, good luck Mikel Arteta

And that is precisely what they did. The Gunners signed a scrappy, ankle-snapping, tackle-flying Sampdoria midfielder named Lucas Torreira for £26 million. The deal, which stalled throughout the summer due to Torreira’s play at the World Cup, was eventually wrapped up, Arsenal keen to rebuild the central midfield after lacklustre performances from Granit Xhaka, the potential departure of Aaron Ramsey, and extended absences and exits of Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla.

More from Pain in the Arsenal

Torreira hit the ground running. Under Unai Emery, playing at the heart of a high-energy, high-intensity system with great pressing, relentless pursuit, and hair-raising approach that sometimes overawed opponents and at other times undermined Arsenal’s own efforts, the small but mighty midfielder was central to everything positive about the early Emery months. He proved exactly what the team was missing under Wenger for all those years, a true defensive midfielder, with range and quickness to cover the ground, instincts to intercept passes and recover possession, and the intelligence and attitude to fly into tackles at just the right time.

But then he tired. Still adapting to English football and without a winter break, Torreira struggled to deal with the physical demands of a full season. It was to be expected and was not a reflection on his overall ability, but rather an indication that he is still learning the position, developing his trade and honing his physical qualities. Nevertheless, it was assumed that he would back to his biting best in his second season, and this time able to maintain a high level of play throughout the entire campaign. Only, Emery had other areas.

Curiously and misguidedly, Emery shifted Torreira higher up the pitch, into a box-to-box role that sometimes saw him breaking into the penalty area. While Torreira is a capable enough player to impact matches in this new role, especially when pressing the opposition and turning over possession in more advanced areas, it was quite clearly not the best use of his qualities, especially when it left the overmatched Xhaka anchoring the defence with typically disastrous consequences.

It is telling, then, that in his first match in charge, the Boxing Day draw with Bournemouth, new head coach Mikel Arteta reinstated Torreira in his natural position. And it is not surprising that Torreira flourished as a result.

In fact, Torreira was the best player on the pitch by some distance. He gained possession a remarkable 11 times, maintained a pass completion rate of 88.3% and completely and utterly controlled the match alongside Xhaka, who was also much-improved under Arteta’s coaching. This was the type of performance that Torreira repeatedly put in last season. It is the type of display that fans had grown accustomed to seeing every week. It was nice to see him return to his old self.

Next. Arsenal Vs Bournemouth: 5 things we learned. dark

If Arteta can get the best out of Torreira, Arsenal will be well on their way to dominating matches in central midfield once again. He is a brilliantly impactful player when played in his best position, just as he was on Boxing Day. This, then, is the Torreira I remember. Long may it continue.