Gritty Tor­reira brings added steel to Arsenal mid­field

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

Lucas Tor­reira has been at Arsenal just a mat­ter of months but the tough­tack­ling mid­fielder al­ready looks like the kind of player the club has been miss­ing for years. The Uruguay in­ter­na­tional will make only his sev­enth Premier League start when Wolves visit the Emirates Sta­dium to­day, yet his im­por­tance to Unai Emery’s rapidly im­prov­ing team is clear.

Op­er­at­ing in cen­tral mid­field, Tor­reira has of­fered a com­bat­ive pres­ence, pro­vid­ing his back four with pro­tec­tion while his use of the ball has been sim­i­larly im­pres­sive. Other play­ers in Emery’s line-up may have pro­vided more spec­tac­u­lar mo­ments dur­ing the Gun­ners’ 15-game un­beaten run.

How­ever, it is the con­tri­bu­tion of Tor­reira and Granit Xhaka, trans­formed from the in­con­sis­tent player of re­cent sea­sons, that have given rea­son to be­lieve this Arsenal side has the steel to sus­tain their early charge. The pair have in­stilled a bal­ance in the team that was lack­ing for long pe­ri­ods dur­ing the fi­nal years of Arsene Wenger’s reign.

Hav­ing built his early suc­cess in north Lon­don around a mid­field led by Pa­trick Vieira, Wenger’s fail­ure to re­solve the ap­par­ent frail­ties of his later sides was at times baf­fling. Gil­berto Silva pro­vided ad­mirable ser­vice but since the Brazil in­ter­na­tional left for Panathi­naikos 10 years ago, few play­ers have shown them­selves ca­pa­ble of fill­ing what of­ten ap­peared to be an ob­vi­ous gap. The ar­rival of Tor­reira in a £27mn ($35mn) deal from Sam­p­do­ria this sum­mer, how­ever, ap­pears to have ended the wait.

Emery eased the 22-year-old into his new life in English foot­ball, in­tro­duc­ing the player from the bench for the first five league games, be­fore de­cid­ing Tor­reira was up to speed. And his gritty per­for­mance in last week­end’s 1-1 draw with Liver­pool con­firmed he has set­tled into his new sur­round­ings.

“You have to give credit to him be­cause he’s some­one who works hard, who wants to work hard and who shows that on the pitch as well,” said Arsenal de­fender Shkodran Mustafi.

“Against Liver­pool he re­cov­ered a lot of balls, and that makes it not only eas­ier for the de­fend­ers, but for the whole team. I’ve changed a lot of leagues, a lot of coun­tries my­self and I know it’s not easy to set­tle in. I think he’s done it bril­liantly well.”

The per­for­mance of Emery’s team against Liver­pool strength­ened the be­lief that they have a chance of emerg­ing as gen­uine con­tenders in the Premier League ti­tle race. Arsenal’s main pri­or­ity is to re­turn to the Cham­pi­ons League af­ter miss­ing out last sea­son and chal­leng­ing at the top of the ta­ble would be an added bonus.

Per­for­mances have steadily im­proved and Emery’s im­pact is al­ready be­ing felt. The next test is to main­tain this form and the loss of Eng­land for­ward Danny Wel­beck to a se­ri­ous an­kle in­jury this week will not help.

But Tor­reira has so far pro­vided Arsenal with qual­i­ties they have been lack­ing and if the mid­fielder con­tin­ues to per­form as he has, the Gun­ners may have to re­view their tar­gets as they head into the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

Op­er­at­ing in Arsenal’s cen­tral mid­field, Lucas Tor­reira has of­fered a com­bat­ive pres­ence, pro­vid­ing his back four with pro­tec­tion while his use of the ball has been sim­i­larly im­pres­sive.

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