Name – Lucas Sebastián Torreira Di Pascua

Age – 22

Height – 5’6″

Preferred foot – Right

Shirt number – 34 (same as Xhaka and Coquelin)

Positions

  • Defensive midfielder – 124 apps
  • Central midfielder – 9 apps
  • Attacking midfielder – 2 apps

Teams

  • Pescara
    • 14/15: Serie B – 2 apps, Serie B playoffs – 3 apps, Coppa Italia – 2 apps (0G, 0A)
    • 15/16: Seire B – 26 apps, Serie B playoffs – 3 apps, Coppa Italia – 3 apps (5G, 1A)
  • Sampdoria
    • 16/17: Serie A – 35 apps, Coppa Italia – 3 apps (0G, 3A)
    • 17/18: Serie A – 36 apps, Coppa Italia – 3 apps (4G, 1A)
  • Uruguay
    • Debut – March 23, 2018 vs. Czech Republic
    • 3 apps (0G, 0A)

Strengths

  • Interceptions
  • Balance
  • Long shots
  • Set-pieces
  • Passing
  • Tackling
  • Concentration
  • Blocking

Weaknesses

  • Aerial duels

Style of play

  • Likes to shoot from distance
  • Gets fouled often
  • Likes to play short passes
  • Likes to tackle
Lucas Torreira of Sampdoria in action during the serie A match between UC Sampdoria and Udinese Calcio at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on February 25, 2018 in Genoa, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Rattini/Getty Images)

The answer to Arsenal’s midfield woes?

Most people would agree that Arsenal’s last successful midfield partnership in the Premier League was that of the rugged Francis Coquelin and the mercurial Santi Cazorla who seemed to complement each other perfectly. One was the archetypal destroyer who was not concerned with any technical aspect of the game but rather to seek out the ball, win it by any means necessary and give it to someone nearby with a wider range of skills. The other was the fulcrum of the side, driving the ball forward from midfield either through brilliant close control and dribbling or by sumptuous through passes. As injuries piled up for Cazorla, technical deficiencies became exposed for Coquelin and with Arsene Wenger’s strange tactical choices the partnership fell apart and all other combinations with players (Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mohamed Elneny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alex Iwobi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and even Mesut Ozil) felt mismatched and ineffective. Arsenal finally hope to rectify this with the addition of a new gem who they hope to be a next diamond in the rough.

Lucas Torreira has been touted as one of the bright sparks in Italian football and surely one of the most important cogs in the current Sampdoria machine over the past two seasons. He started his career at Montevideo Wanderers’ youth team in Uruguay before joining the youth team at Pescara in Italy, drawing comparisons to a young Marco Verratti who also played for the coastal club. In 2015/16 he was purchased by Sampdoria but was instantly loaned back, where he became an integral part of the Serie B side. In 2016/17, he completed his move to Sampdoria where he had two very successful seasons at the club. Now under new management and taking a new direction, The Arsenal seem to have plucked a young, extremely talented player from a smaller side in a move that harkens back to the recently concluded Wenger era.

Juventus’ defender Stephan Lichtsteiner from Switzerland (L) fights for the ball with Sampdoria’s midfielder Lucas Torreira of Uruguay during the Italian Serie A football match Sampdoria Vs Juventus on November 19, 2017 at the ‘Luigi Ferraris’ Stadium in Genoa.

Tenacious tackler or dexterous dribbler?

At 5’6, Lucas Torreira is a relatively short player who is known for his intensity and tenacity both going forward and defending. In the current Sampdoria side he acts as the fulcrum of their entire play. He is not a traditional destroyer type defensive midfielder. He is usually the deepest lying midfielder and does a fine job in protecting the back four. In fact since 2016, when he first came to Sampdoria, no player in the league has won more tackles or interceptions than he has. So he clearly has the “steel” and “mettle” that traditional Arsenal fans have been craving. As evidenced by his interception numbers he is an astute reader of the game and is able to snuff out attacks effectively. He is also an avid tackler and will throw himself into tackles quite readily. One disadvantage he has defensively is his lack of height and thus is pretty poor in winning headers. However, this is merely a part of his game.

Image courtesy of Squawka.com

Apart from his defensive duties, he is the player who is tasked with starting attacks. He is not a player who wins the ball and immediately passes it off for someone else to get the ball forward. He has a good passing range, though not as impressive as the likes of Cazorla or Xhaka. He prefers the shorter intelligent forward pass but is more than capable of pulling out a raking switch pass out to the wing. In addition to his passing, he is a player who is able to use quick feet and tight close control to dribble past the pressing forwards and midfielders and drive forward to start attacks. His dribbling stats do not look particularly impressive at first glance but consider that again since 2016, no player in Serie A has won more fouls than he has. His low center of gravity and excellent balance allow him not only swivel away from defenders and allow him to maintain possession but also assist him in surprising attackers and allowing him to nick the ball off of their feet. He has been described as one of “the most difficult 5’6” player to dispossess in world football”.

For a deep lying player, his creation stats are serviceable if not impressive in terms of key passes, crosses and assists. However, one aspect of his game that has been improving is his shooting. He is a player who is quite happy to have a pop from distance. All four of his goals from last season came from outside of the box one which included a brilliant free kick.

Torreira appears to be an exceedingly exciting player for Arsenal to be signing. This signing appears to fit perfectly in the mould of the previous regime: young, diminutive, intelligent, technical, plays a passing style. Essentially, Torreira is a combination of major attributes of both Coquelin and Cazorla which made them a successful partnership.

How does he measure up to the giants?

Compared to the current crop of Arsenal midfielders there is no doubt that he would easily slot in as one of the first choice midfielders based on last season’s statistics. Defensively he has more tackles, interceptions and blocks per 90 (2.8, 2, 0.5 respectively) than all other current Arsenal midfielders. Passing numbers are quite good as well with 60.8 average passes, 2.5 long balls and a pass completion of 87.2%. This is quite similar to Elneny, (64.4, 1.8, 93.7%) but eclipsed by the passing master Xhaka (82, 4.9, 86.9%). Offensively he completes 1 dribble per game which is similar or better to all other Arsenal midfielders other than Wilshere (2.3). Similarly, his shots per game are 0.9 which is only significantly bettered by Ramsey (2.3).

1. Defensive Statistics vs Arsenal Players

2017/2018 statistics courtesy of whoscored.com

2. Offensive Statistics vs Arsenal Players

2017/2018 statistics courtesy of whoscored.com

3. Passing Statistics vs Arsenal Players

2017/2018 statistics courtesy of whoscored.com

4. Defensive Statistics vs Top Players

2017/2018 statistics courtesy of whoscored.com

5. Offensive Statistics vs Top Players

2017/2018 statistics courtesy of whoscored.com

6. Passing Statistics vs Top Players

2017/2018 statistics courtesy of whoscored.com

Compared to some of the bigger defensive midfielders in Europe, he puts up quite similar numbers which can be quite encouraging considering his age. His tackling numbers are bettered slightly by the likes of Kante (3.3) but comparable to the likes of Busquets (2.8) and Verratti (2.3). Interceptions follow a similar trend with Kante (2.5) the best of the bunch while Busquets (1.6) and Verratti (1.2) a bit behind. In terms of passing he lags behind all 3 in terms of average number of passes, long balls and pass completion but still respectively within range of them. Offensively, again, they all have quite close numbers.

The raw numbers are very encouraging both when compared to the current crop of midfielders at Arsenal as well as against some of the very best currently playing. The numbers however, cannot be taken in isolation as the tactics and strength of each team as well of the style of play of each player can give some deceiving results. Regardless, there is cause for optimism.

How will Arsenal use their new Weapon?

In Coquelin’s final season, Wenger utilized him in a more advanced role to hound attacking players higher up the pitch to force mistakes and allow Arsenal to break quickly and deep in enemy territory. While in possession of the ball, Xhaka was the deepest midfielder spreading the ball forward with his excellent passing range. The problem with this was that the Frenchman lacked the technical ability to carry the ball forward or create opportunities for other players once the ball had been turned over. Thus the ball was lost high up the pitch numerous times leaving the somewhat immobile Xhaka languishing for assistance when the counter-attacking onslaught approached with Coquelin way behind the play.

It would seem pretty straight forward how Torreira would be utilized at Arsenal regardless of new manager Unai Emery’s preferred formation. He will most likely be partnered with Xhaka in a midfield two or three. Defensively, one would expect the tenacity and athleticism of Torreira to assist Xhaka in mopping up opponent’s attack with both players’ excellent reading of the game. Offensively, one would expect Torreira to have a bit more impetus to go forward allowing Xhaka the opportunity to spread the ball. However, this would not be as limited as explained previously. With Torreira’s good vision, decent passing range and excellent close control, it would not be necessary for him to seek out a better player to continue the attack as Coquelin did. Also, Torreira being allowed to press the ball high up the pitch could be quite beneficial as him winning the ball high up is a far more dangerous prospect that a player who is 100% a destroyer.

ALLIANZ STADIUM, TORINO, ITALY – 2018/04/15: Lucas Torreira of UC Sampdoria in action during the Serie A football match between Juventus Fc and Uc Sampdoria . Juventus Fc wins 3-0 over Uc Sampdoria.

The Return of Coqzorla

Arsenal fans have been dying for a functional midfield for years. Hardened English fans are adamant that Arsenal lack the mettle to succeed in the Premier League and need to bring back a destroyer. On the other hand, the modern purist maintains that the smaller technical player who maintains possession and initiates attack is far more important in this era. In Torreira, The Arsenal hopefully has found the balance of both mixed into one player. Welcome to The Arsenal, Lucas.

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    Philip Ho
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    Name – Lucas Sebastián Torreira Di Pascua Age – 22 Height – 5’6″ Preferred foot – Right Shirt number – 34 (same as Xhaka and Coquelin) Positions Defen
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