Where did it go wrong for Lucas Torreira and what next for the little Uruguayan?
By Alex Trad
After a breakthrough 2017/18 campaign with Sampdoria and a solid individual display at the World Cup the following Summer, Lucas Torreira signed for Arsenal back in 2018 to much delight from a supporter’s perspective. Although at first few knew of Torreira’s true colours, a seamless and swift transition to English football cast a shining light over the Uruguayan’s ability. Not before long were many hailing the ball-winning midfielder’s £26.5 million transfer fee as the bargain of the season- and for good reason too, mind.
Across the opening five or so months of his Arsenal career, Torreira brought a certain energy and zip to an otherwise passive Gunners midfield. Man of the Match displays against Liverpool and Tottenham spring to mind. It’s worth noting, however, that the 24-year old’s rich vein of form came during what was a purple patch for Unai Emery’s side- managing an impressive 22-match unbeaten streak from August until December.
Still, all good things must come to an end. Beside Arsenal’s steep decline in form from late-2018 onwards was Lucas Torreira’s inevitable and somewhat expected dip in performances. Stating that, he yet played an instrumental role in our impressive run to the Europa League final, registering quality displays against both Napoli and Valencia in the quarter-final and semi-final, respectively. Beyond all the negatives that came with Arsenal’s desperately dreadful collective showing against Chelsea in the final, one glimmering light remained- Lucas Torreira, the future of our midfield three and first-team regular for years to come.
As was the case for the large majority of our current squad, Torreira’s 2019/20 season did not go exactly as planned. Far from it. That said, it would be equally harsh on the Uruguay international to hold the player alone accountable for his rapid downturn in fortunes.
Contributing greatly to Torreira’s poor displays at the start of the campaign was Unai Emery’s inexplicable misuse of the midfielder’s qualities. Without reason, the Spanish ‘tactician’ elected to deploy Torreira in an advanced central role on more occasions than not- just one of many examples demonstrating Emery’s tactical ineptitude. Whilst experimenting with your starting XI is an expected sight, shifting a player’s position in such drastic and unavailing fashion hinders said squad member’s technical development and inflicts reasonable doubt on the manager himself. That, and the overall confusion surrounding the club during that period, did little to improve Torreira’s fast waning fortunes.
Still more remarkably, it was revealed roughly around the same period that the midfielder of Emery’s choice the Summer upon his arrival was in fact Sevilla’s Steven N’Zonzi. Fortunately for Torreira, then head of recruitment Sven Mslintat convinced his Spanish colleague to seek the 22-year old’s services instead. From this, one can only assume that Emery's relationship with Torreira was little different to his initial impressions of the former-Sassuolo man. And despite promising early signs under Arteta, still the same issues remain for the 5'5 man.
On top of our former head coach’s squandering of the Uruguayan’s ability, Torreira’s overall statistical performance this season pales in comparison to the figures he registered the year prior. Having registered a respectable 2.15 tackles per 90 in 2018/19, Arsenal’s no. 11 managed 2.2 last season, but when adjusted for possession, his 18/19 value is much more impressive. His tackle success rate also plummeted from 87% to 66% within the same time-frame. And although not an expected attribute from a natural defensive-minded midfielder, Torreira created, on average, half as many goal-scoring opportunities last campaign than the one prior (0.33 to 0.15 per 90).
With little first-team opportunities in sight for the Uruguayan under Mikel Arteta owing to Arsenal's possible heavy spending in central areas of the pitch in the coming weeks, it seems as though his time in N5 is fast approaching its end with a move back to Italy growing likelier by the day. According to numerous sources- including Gianluca di Marzio among other reputed outlets- the Gunners appear to have already agreed terms with AC Fiorentina over a two-year loan deal for Torreira in the region of £8 million with an additional £16 million to be compensated via an obligation to buy clause. Whilst ultimately we’d receive the approximate fee that was first allocated for Torreira to join two years ago, only a small fraction of this would go towards the pursuit of our prime transfer targets in the immediate short-term. Not quite the smartest use of our resources in all honesty.
Aside from that, we can only wish Torreira well in all his future endeavours. A player whose ability only shone sporadically and in short stints following a rampant start to life in North London, it’s an undisputed shame that he eventually failed to convert the extended honeymoon of his Emirates career into sustainably-solid performances. Such is the nature of football at the highest level, however, and perhaps a return to the Serie A would in fact suit all parties. Either that, or we’re heading into Torreira’s remontada season at Arsenal. Only time will tell...
He comes from Uruguay, he’s only five foot high!