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He was a standout for Uruguay as the South Americans made a run to the quarter finals of the World Cup. Over the course of that run, it became clear why Arsenal were so interested in Lucas Torreira. He is the kind of player the Gunners were missing, an irrepressible force in the centre of the pitch.
This is why so many Arsenal fans have reacted positively to the signing of the 22-year-old from Sampdoria, completed earlier this week. It’s rare that a new signing is greeted with such unanimous positivity, but then few teams have such a glaring midfield deficiency as the Gunners do.
Unai Emery will change the identity of Arsenal as a team and the signing of Torreira shows this. They must get nastier, they must find an edge to their play. The Gunners have plenty of players who are good with the ball at their feet, capable of picking a pass or raking a diagonal ball from one side of the pitch to the other.
They lack presence in the centre of the pitch, though. Two years ago, Arsenal should have made a move for N’Golo Kanté. Back then, the Gunners were a Champions League club, while Chelsea, the team Kanté would eventually sign for, were not. They could have beaten their London rivals to the signing of the Frenchman.
Of course, as we all know, Kanté has since gone on to become a giant for Chelsea, doing more than anyone else to lead the Blues to the Premier League title in his first season at the club. Arsenal were made to make do with Granit Xhaka as they slipped out of the top four and into Premier League obscurity.
Now they have Torreira, though, and the Uruguayan could be their very own Kanté. He might not boast the pedigree of the Frenchman, but there are similarities in the way the two players cover so much ground. They’re everywhere, whether it’s breaking up an opposition move, shielding the back four or driving the ball forward for a counter.
It’s not yet known how Arsenal will play under Emery in terms of shape and formation, but the Spaniard demands that his players be fit. That’s another reason Torreira will have appealed. At the World Cup, there were no signs that he fades over the course of 90 minutes. In fact, if anything, he improved.
There are still a lot of moving parts at the Emirates Stadium right now. Together with Sven Mislintat, Emery and the staff at Arsenal are midway through a much-needed overhaul of the squad. Some signings will fare better than others, but Torreira’s arrival could be the most significant of them all.