"He comes from Uruguay, he's only five foot five" - why Torreira is the best thing since sliced bread

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By Poppy Pecorelli, third year Sociology student

As an Arsenal fan my face lights up when asked the question ‘so what about that Torreira then?'

The only way I can begin to describe how us Arsenal fans feel about Torreira is like that feeling when you've been craving a Chinese for weeks and then eventually it’s a Sunday, and you’re sitting down in front of the telly and you finally taste that first delicious bite of sweet and sour chicken.

Torriera is exactly what we had been craving all this time, what we had been missing, and what had been long overdue.

From the void left behind after the days of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva, no one has quite managed to fulfil that lynchpin defensive midfielder role at Arsenal. For years we have lacked that N’Golo style midfield player that can both efficiently and ruthlessly defend a threat before driving an attack the other way. For a generation of Arsenal fans like myself, brought up on the likes of Flamini and Coquelin, finally we have been granted a hero. A hero with pace, agility, guile and drive. The impact of Torreira this season cannot be overstated.

Arsenal have managed to finally find the tenacious defensive midfielder they have been looking for in the form of the pocket-rocket Uruguayan. Capable of bridging the gaps between our attack and our defence, he acts as that perfect deep lying play-maker; creating space, recovering possession and offering much needed protection and security to our often porous back line.

Above all, he plays intelligent football, with this amazing for-thinking ability in which he stymies incoming threats, anticipating opposition passes and intercepting them with skill, power and precision. Torreira has 2.27 interceptions per 90 minutes to Kante’s 1.17. He also leads in terms of tackles won - 1.36 compared to Kante’s 1.08. Even with Kante playing a more advanced position on the pitch this season, stats don’t lie and those stats are pretty fire if I’m honest.

What is even more enjoyable to watch on the pitch at the moment is the impact that Torreira has been having on his team members. Particularly fellow midfielder Granit Xhaka. Xhaka, since his signing from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2016, hasn’t exactly been a fan favourite; struggling with ball retention and lacking the distribution expected from him.

However, with Torreira providing that much needed defensive stability and creating opportunities for more creative freedom on and off the ball, the two seem to perfectly balance each other out. With Torreira on the pitch, Xhaka is given the flexibility to concentrate on his strengths as a midfielder. Focusing on transitional play, he is now more freely able to progress the ball forwards into the final attacking third, with notably reduced errors leading to goals from the midfielder in the 2018/19 season. Moreover, his disciplinary record has significantly improved, no longer having to lunge into desperate last minute tackles to regain the ball. You can really begin to see the two forming a solid partnership at the base of midfield.

Even more prominent is the increased character, passion and zeal we have seen from Arsenal as a whole this season. These past few years, in the latter half of the Wenger era, we seemed to have slipped into this lukewarm, often bored approach to games. Once a few goals were conceded, that seemed to be it; we gave up - falling into a half-hearted, lacklustre style of play.

Yet at the moment this couldn't be more different. It seems that the defining feature of Emery’s managerial talent this season, is second half play. Even when losing we mange to maintain tempo, refusing to let the game slip away form us. Arsenal have won the most points form a losing position compared to any other team in the Premier League this season. In my opinion, it is Torreira that plays a huge role in this. His energy and commitment to the game is contagious, and his never-give-up mentality seems to have seeped throughout the team. The definition of small but beautiful. Our saving grace.

Featured Image - Alvin Leong / Flickr


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